Valdes might be the best goalkeeper in the world
There’s been a long-held belief outside Spain that anyone could play in goal for Barcelona. In recent months though, that notion has been disproved with the performances of Victor Valdes. With the Blaugrana’s refusal to sign a centre-back, their defensive frailties have been laid bare for all to see.
With the Spain international between the posts though, the Camp Nou club have got off to the best start in their history – conceding just seven goals in the process. Valdes will be leaving the Catalan capital next summer, but Barca will be glad he’s around for a few more months yet.
Sergio Ramos isn’t a midfielder
Carlo Ancelotti astonished pundits and fans alike on Saturday when the team-sheets were released for the Clasico. It was expected that Los Blancos would try to sure up the midfield and stop the floating runs of Lionel Messi – but no one saw Sergio Ramos being picked for that role. It was a reactive move from the Italian tactician, and one that backfired. Having picked up a booking early on, Ramos was ineffective at the base of a triumvirate and was substituted for Asier Illarramendi in the second half.
Neymar’s the real deal
Everyone saw the Youtube reels of Neymar running circles around defenders in Brazil, but could the kid with the Mohican do it in Europe? It was something of a gamble for Barcelona to pay upwards of €50m for a youngster who had never produced outside South America, but during the Clasico at the weekend, the 21-year-old showed he was worth all that money. His directness running at defenders, pace on the ball and general movement were superb – and he topped it all off with a well-taken goal.
Bale’s struggling for space
He isn’t 100% fit – that much is obvious. But Gareth Bale’s big problem at the moment is his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo. The two were charged with becoming a fluid front-line at the weekend with Angel Di Maria, but the Wales international floundered in the middle and then got in the former Manchester United man’s way when trying to attack from a wide position. Of course, these things take time. But when you’re the most expensive player of all time, patience isn’t something you’re afforded.
Xabi Alonso – Madrid’s key man
The former Liverpool midfielder has been out since the summer after recovering from groin surgery, and it’s no surprise that without him, Real Madrid have flattered to deceive under Carlo Ancelotti. At Camp Nou, Sergio Ramos was named in defensive midfield, and as discussed above, was not impressive. Sami Khedira looks lost without his partner, and Luka Modric is being charged with both creating attacks and ending opposition surges forward. The ex-Anfield hero is exactly what the Santiago Bernabeu team need at the moment – a leader in the defensive half of the field, who can break up play and set up quick counter-attacks.
image: © Gerard Reyes