Just Another Football Match, La Liga Round 10

El Clasico, Barcelona versus Real Madrid, was just another football match. Yet it seems there is more to it than just a simple game where 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and, according to Gary Lineker, there is one team that always wins. But exactly what more is there?

Well, we know that it is one of the oldest derbys in the world – the first match was held in 1902. Yet, some players attempt to shine all their light in this world during the present game. It thus transcends time and, hence the initial statement, it is just another football match. One clear example of what El Clasico can bring out in a football player happened after Karim Benzema entered the field. No Real Madrid fan could be heard at the Nou Camp. Hence, he lacked a burden – that dead weight that is physically visible at the home ground – while stepping in for Bale. During the 27th minute of the second half he smacked the ball really hard, a ball that seemed like a comet full of feelings that he was trying to dodge and redirect into the goal, quickly passing through the resistance caused by thin air but with the anger accumulated during the previous weeks. The corner of the goalmouth bounced that vibration back and in another direction. Thereafter, the player was unable to show that intensity compressed in a split second and sustain Carlo Ancelotti’s only wise move during the whole game. No goal scored; still, it was evidence of and a full glimpse at Karim Benzema’s true character. Indeed, just another football match where the conscience of a large group of observers from around the world placed their eyes and judgement just above of the shoulders of 22 men on the field and a few others on the other side of the white lines.

At that exact moment the Catalan team was winning (by score) but losing their control of the match. It was pretty clear that the players were – and still are – trying to surpass the current and much announced challenge that lies ahead of them: finding variations in their game in order to be less predictable. It is not only a matter of being less forseeable; it goes deeper than just winning the game. The relationship between these football players has been more or less the same for the last 5 years – since Pep Guardiola. What relationship can survive longer on these same exact terms; knowing each other by heart while involved in the same tactical system? Next, there should be a healthy variation in that relationship that ties the players together but, at the same time, invites them to reinvent themselves and continue at the top of world football. Therefore, managers and coaches of Barcelona must anticipate how to pass this beautiful and consequently successful legacy to the next generation of fresh football players. When Real Madrid mastered the pace of the game Tata Martino seemed to decode that hidden message or untamed challenge with enlightening precision. Shouting at the key players of the team, to try to control the ball or to defend while thoroughly using and keeping the ball, did not work. More than important words, distinct actions were needed: in came Alexis to seal the game with a protuberant touch over the keeper – Diego López – and Alexandre Song to match Real Madrid’s possession of the ball. Again, this plain football match – that has its own name preceded by a defined article which helps to enhance its present importance – proved to be more than just a boy’s game.

El Clasico, one of the most studied and rehearsed matches in football history, came to its final score based on the fulfilled potential of the protagonists who had an insightful approach towards the game.

Barcelona 2 – Real Madrid 1 (click the score to view the highlights), in other words, was shaped by the players and staff who assumed their role in history, by the players who also enjoyed the focus of attention from a massive part of the planet during 90 minutes, by those who made the decision to forget all the redundant factors that surround this football match and thought: let’s play like a child who is fully present and desires to surpass its own performance and, thus, overcome the other team; with the conscious spirit that understands each football match as the last but not least. This perspective automatically evokes Neymar’s young and yet professional approach to this game – as he also understands that the fouls vested on his body are just another part of just another football match.

The other details, countless moments that escaped the eyes of millions around the world, will be reminisced in the coming El Clasico films and the vast on-line bootleg tally up. Round 10 was completed by just another 9 football matches:

(Click the scores to view the highlights!)

Rayo Vallecano 0 – Valladolid 3: the visiting team showed a tight order in all its lines throughout the whole game to win with almost no obstacles.

Malaga 0 – Celta de Vigo 5: the forcefulness that the team from Galicia was missing appeared in this match. Five goals in one game and a question for Celta de Vigo’s coach – Luis Enrique: how can the team sustain this one-off achievement and emulate this performance during rest of the season?

Elche 0 – Granada 1: a new tactical approach by Granada – consisting of a defensive commitment between all 11 players in the field – was enough to pacify all of Elche’s attempts at goal.

Levante 3 – Espanyol 0: an early penalty conceded in favour of the home team made the Catalan team unstable, dizzy and, finally, uncompromising during most of the game.

Sevilla 2 – Osasuna 1: Rakitic, the leader of this team, recovered from an injury and led the way through the game. It is hard to predict which track Sevilla are on at the moment as most hopes fall on the shoulders of this individual and outstanding international player.

Villarreal 4 – Valencia 1: no surprises here! Villarreal, enhanced by the spirit of the team that has positioned them amongst the top teams in La Liga, continue to shine in their football while defeating a wondering Valencia that showed no signs of leadership on the field.

Real Sociedad 3 – Almeria 0: second straight win for the home team who were up against the weakest team in La Liga with no victories so far.

Atletico Madrid 5 – Real Betis 0: the home team is showing an overwhelming consistency by overcoming teams with lower, equal and higher – certainly different – demands. The coach of Atletico Madrid – Diego Simeone – sums it up: “I think that the hardest thing in football is to keep the mission, humility and collective effort. When a team achieves this it can make the maximum out of a game played within a team setting”.

Getafe 0 – Athletic Bilbao 1: the visiting team is strong both home and away but still suffers for periods before the end of most matches. However, the team spirit is strong and well placed to cover for the team’s areas of development.

At the end of the day, another round is already here to unfold the simple twists of each football match!

About Nico Argentato

Spanish and English teacher, Sports Psychology student and music enthusiast. An innate passion for movement and rhythm prompted my early development in the sports world; participating in most sports that involve a ball. Now, I am also looking for the words that can best describe that vital energy: the music in football and world sports.
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