One shot and one shot in the air


At 6,011 kilometers from Barcelona and 6,594 from Madrid, the first Clásico of the year is served, a magnificently paid oriental whim and presided over by an exit imbalance that only serves bettors: the white victory is paid twice (Follow the game live on The program of the first semifinal of the Super Cup says that everything comes out for Madrid and almost nothing for Barça, take it wherever they take it: the field, the bench, the offices, the accounts, the COVID, the doctors … Even the history. Seven times they have met in the Super Cup (none in this quadrangular format) and in six of them Madrid won.

This time yes, without Messi, Madrid seems to have turned the sock upside down thanks to better management of the coronavirus crisis and the perfect conjunction in a football team: that the veterans are durable and the young people progress. Benzema and Vinicius symbolize both. Between them they add 29 goals in the League. The whole Barça has scored 31. And the same goes for Modric or Militao, main players in their lines with unexpected performances. Even the weak point, the right wing, is in the process of being solved. Carvajal, with a long history of injuries and out since mid-December, is recovered, although it will be difficult to start. Lucas Vázquez, his replacement, acts as an exemplary substitute and some of his best performances were against Barça. And Asensio, without surprising, has already scored seven goals. In that it has an advantage over the competition.

The only thing that Ancelotti has not resolved, and it seems difficult to have a remedy, is the bench, with a third of the squad almost useless, including the two most expensive on the team, Hazard and Bale, who didn’t even travel for a hassle-not-injury (the conjunction of terms was invented for him) back. But it doesn’t seem to need spares today, with all the headlines available. Madrid has also worked successfully in avoiding injuries, which will look almost gala.

Last minute reinforcements

On the other side, Barça is a shot in the air, although a shot at the end of the day. Xavi has managed to rebuild his Frankenstein without knowing if it will really have life. Pedri and Ferran Torres arrived a day later after a long-awaited negative in COVID. A cut disguised as a renewal of Umtiti on the horn will allow the alignment of the former City, who has not played a game since October, when he was injured with the National Team, although Guardiola had stopped putting him a month before. Pedri has only played four games all season, the last in September (3-0 defeat against Benfica) after last year’s binge (76 matches between all competitions). And in them is Ansu Fati, who returned at the end of September after 323 days off and was injured again in early November. He has not played since (and it seems that he will not do so today from the beginning), but in eight moments he scored four goals. In fact, he’s the team’s second scorer after Memphis, another in limbo. His 29 ‘in Granada were the first in a month. He has done the best in the League; in the Champions League he was left blank.

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Ferran Torres and Pedri, before Barcelona training.

For this rescue operation, he has also recruited Araujo, who underwent surgery for a broken hand on Friday, and Dani Alves, who is waiting for a second life at an age at which most have hung up their boots. And then there is Dembélé, a case since he arrived. He has played ten games and lost 17, does not accept the renewal and burdens the salary limit. It did not seem appropriate for Xavi to plead in public for his continuity or for Laporta to warm up to the point of seeing him better than Mbappé. The result is that he appears and disappears and has scored only one goal. There will therefore be an eleven Blaugrana with pins (up to twelve players have overcome COVID in the last two weeks) but full of players who, at their maximum, are competitive against anyone. And in him Luuk de Jong will not be, who while they opened the door to him entered four points in the account culé. Even in that the forecasts have failed.

Big with the greats

The Xavi effect, which was presumed more immediate, has not been lasting either. Only five victories in eleven games and, except for Villarreal, the rest had little epic: against the recently promoted Espanyol and Mallorca, Elche and Linares. Until now, only the future has been talked about, with some justification: this Barça that nurtures the National Team has the youngest squad in the First Division. While, Madrid has passed all the greats: Barça, Atlético, Sevilla, Betis and Inter, Athletic and Valencia twice.

Real Madrid players listen to Ancelotti’s instructions before training at the Principe Faisal stadium in Riyadh.

Statistically, Madrid is superior in almost all the registers, including some traditionally attributed to Barça such as passes, speed of movement or the shot (almost three more per game than whites). Static and counter plays also culminate better. Barça’s strong points are high recovery (no First team comes close to it) and possession, not always well managed. The question is whether the data will go on one side and the facts on the other, which is the classic of a Classic.

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