The Blaugrana has waited a long time for this. Will it approach the Classic as the leader?
Matches after the national team break, as it were, are governed by their own laws. Often the biggest clubs have to cope with numerous absences, or at least the knocking out of key players. This time it cost Real Madrid its first points loss of the season, and thus the loss of the leadership seat two queues before El Clasico.
- The first round after the national team break brought a change of leader
- Barcelona snatched victory at Mallorca thanks to Lewy’s goal, while Benzema was disappointing in the clash with Osasuna, and the royals only drew with Osasuna
- The Blaugrana last sat in the leader’s seat in June 2020. It returned to the throne after 833 days
Lewandowski key again
The representative break took a huge toll on Barcelona. All that was still missing from the full disaster was (spit on the sidewalk) an injury to Robert Lewandowski. Xavi lost two key central defenders during it, who were also the coach’s primary options on the right side of the defense. On top of that, another right defender, Hector Bellerin, was out for three weeks while training with the team. Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay are also battling minor injuries. Ousmane Dembele, meanwhile, returned to the Catalan capital after suffering a mild ailment.
Under such circumstances, a trip to the Balearic Islands could not be associated with anything pleasant. And indeed, RCD Mallorca put on a deep defensive with hopes of surviving the encounter. And who knows, maybe some counter-attack ending with a suitable throw-in to Vedat Muriqi would hit?
The plan was a good one, and everything would have worked if not for those meddlesome kids… That is, if not for Robert Lewandowski. And Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Because Barcelona actually played slow, dull and rarely posed a threat. Alejandro Balde made his debut as a right defender, and players like Pedri and Raphinha started on the substitutes’ bench. At such moments, the team needs a gamechanger. Such turned out to be the Pole. In the 20th minute, Lewy brilliantly positioned himself for Ansu Fati’s pass, put his rival through, then fired a crystal-clear strike over the long post. Was it a great match performed by the captain of the White-Red? No. But in this situation he showed everything that the Catalan Pride brought him through. In such a difficult match, he secured a set of points with a flash of genius. As difficult as it can be at times, Karim Benzema found out less than 24 hours after the match in the Balearic Islands.
King Madrid’s unsuccessful comeback
Real Madrid, meanwhile, approached the match against Osasuna in a different mood compared to Barcelona. The issue of injuries sustained by the Kings’ players during the staff break was closed with Luka Modric and Thibaut Courtois suffering from sciatica, while the biggest star Karim Benzema returned to the game. What could have gone wrong?
Los Blancos looked completely out of rhythm, except perhaps for Vinicius. The aforementioned Benzema himself struggled in situations where, at full health, he would certainly have headed the ball into the goal. In the end, the aforementioned Vinicius scored a beautifulho (albeit heavily fortunate) goal and it seemed that the royals would carry the set of eyes to the end.
Nothing of the sort. Antonio Ruediger slightly underestimated Kike Garcia, who gave Lunin no chance with his head. Los Blancos still had plenty of time – and chances – for a goal at 2:1. But it simply wasn’t Karim Benzema’s day. Well, and the Frenchman is definitely not going to like Sergio Herrera. After all, the favorite to reach the Golden Ball on Sunday banged the crossbar from a penalty kick. Interestingly, in the previous duel between the two teams, the 34-year-old wasted two eleven-pointers. When it doesn’t go, it doesn’t go. So much so that this time a mistake by Real’s biggest star cost the club its first loss of points of the season and relegation from the leader’s seat.
Xavi – the king of delegation led the club to the top of the table
833 days. The last time Barcelona was at the top of the table was in June 2020. This was just after a memorable break caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Quique Setien in January took over the reins from Ernesto Valverde, who failed in the Spanish Super Cup. The new coach failed to clinch the league position before the March break, but was quickly disappointed when play resumed. The league was won by Real Madrid, and what happened later in the Catalan capital, we all remember.
Ronald Koeman did not for a moment sit in the leadership seat with the Blaugrana. No wonder, anyway, since the Dutchman elevated his, not very impressive, achievements to a pedestal anyway, claiming that nothing more could be done.
And although sitting four letters up in first place in the table after only seven rounds is a trophy of the kind inserted into Tottenham’s showcase, the achievement itself should be appreciated.
As should the fact that strongly contributed to this achievement. I’m talking about the incredible away series. No one in the history of La Liga has recorded a better start as a coach when it comes to delegations. Xavi will soon celebrate one year as coach of the Catalan Pride, and he still hasn’t tasted a league defeat in a foreign stadium. 13 wins and five draws, including triumphs at the stadiums of Real Madrid, Sevilla, Real Sociedad or Betis. The Blaugrana is proving its championship aspirations, and can confirm them in less than two weeks, during El Clasico.