Sydney FC’s Brandon O’Neill put it on a platter but sadly it was Newcastle’s Nigel Boogaard who finished it.
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A lot has been said about this season’s upcoming El Classico clash before a ball has even been kicked in La Liga. Both teams have added quality to their attack and there seems to be no shortage of ‘star-power’ in either team.
While Atletico Madrid pipped both to the title, it is likely either of Barcelona and Real Madrid would reclaim the title this new season.
Barcelona won both legs of the El Classico in La Liga last season while Real Madrid defeated them in the Copa Del Rey final. Besides the battle on the field, both teams have always wrestled one another for the best players in the world, with Real Madrid coming out on top most times.
The attack-mindedness of both teams is what makes them a threat to each other and the lure of watching two of the greatest players battle it out also spices the match.
Of the two, Real Madrid have a more settled attack. With Gareth Bale already proving his worth in the team, the setup is no issue.
While Barcelona have changed managers a few times in the past years, this has also caused their attack to be altered. I believe Barcelona’s best attack and most settled was during Pep Guardiola’s tenure. With Neymar misfiring, partly due to injuries, the attack has depended on Lionel Messi and Alexis Sanchez last season. But with new additions like £75-million club-record signing Luis Suarez, goals wouldn’t be a problem.
Luiz Enrique must act fast and implement his stamp on the team. Unless Suarez starts the season (pending an appeal against his biting ban), Real Madrid may have the edge before the first El Classico.
A ‘disadvantage’ with such attacking prowess is that some talented players are displaced from the starting 11. This will leave players unhappy especially if they feel they warrant a place. But such headache is what managers enjoy as it shows squad depth especially when their bench have players who can change a game.
Both midfields will be vital for the success of their attack because both use passing and counter-attack to full effect. Luiz Enriques’s preferred starting midfielders will be Ivan Rakitic, Andreas Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, which is a very balanced lineup.
Javier Mascherano’s success at the World Cup also provides proof he should be considered in midfield, rather than defence where he has been wasted. Carlo Ancelotti uses to two DMs in 4-2-3-1 formation.
Xavi Alonso and Luka Modric were his favoured players in that position last season but with the acquisition of Toni Kroos, it could signal the departure of Sami Khedira. However, with options like Asier Illarramendi and Khedira on the bench, their midfield looks more solid than their counterpart.
Both teams possess attacking versatility. Neymar, Messi and Suarez can play any position in the front three of a 4-3-3 formation, as can Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. Gareth Bale and Neymar would be happy to remain on the wings for both clubs but Luiz Enrique would ensure Messi and Suarez interchange positions, depending on which opponents they play against.
In terms of versatility of play, both teams seem to be balanced.
Depth in attack is also crucial and Real Madrid edge their rivals in terms of depth. Barcelona struggled without Messi last season so they have recalled their attacking players but they are young and unproven on the big stages.
Madrid have Isco and Angel Di Maria provided they don’t sell either. These could very well be decisive in the hunt for the La Liga title.
Goals win you games and Real Madrid and Barcelona topped the goals-for in La Liga with 104 and 100 goals respectively. While Neymar struggled in his debut season, Suarez will have to adjust quicker and this could prove difficult with the biting ban still in place.
Benzema, Ronaldo, Bale and Di Maria were present in the top 12 for either goals and assists or both while Barcelona had Sanchez, Messi and Iniesta. Madrid also edge Barcelona in this aspect because a settled and balanced attack will score goals.
Barcelona will have to ensure Neymar has an injury-free season to be at his best and help chip in with his own goals, especially if Suarez ban remains.
Real Madrid overall have the better attack, but it takes more than just attacking prowess to succeed. One thing’s for sure, there will be no holding back when these two teams meet in new season in October.