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Bishs Briefs - First blood Barca as Madrid flaws exposed

Published: 01 Dec 2009 - 08:24:31

The most expensive collection of footballers ever assembled for a football match resulted in Barcelona deservedly beating Real Madrid on Sunday evening, giving the Spanish League, Cup and European Champions a two-point gap over their arch-enemies in this season's race for the La Liga crown.

They can further extend their lead - and surely will - when they face Xerez on Wednesday night, a game re-arranged due to their involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup in December.

They will take heart from their performance on Sunday - when they were the better side - even though they played 27 minutes a man down until until Lassana Diarra joined Sergio Busquets early down the tunnel.

The way they managed to remain largely on the front foot, despite being a man down, demonstrates the gap Madrid still have to bridge if they are too oust Barcelona from the top of the table.

The game was certainly not fitting to the hyperbole surrounding the fixture - the most keenly anticipated between Spain's dominant clubs in recent years - but it was certainly compelling.

For a squad costing upwards of £350m it feels wrong that Real play their best football on the counter-attack, but it is a system that suits the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka - who can accelerate into enemy terriority as well as anybody. In Gonzalo Higuain - possibly the best piece of Madrid in recent years - a snip at £9.2 million, they have the perfect foil for their big-name signings.

Happy to run himself into the ground for the side, the Argentine's runs create the space needed for Ronaldo et al to be at their most potent.

Had the Portugese or Marcelo gobbled up the chances given to them by Kaka in the first half the game could have had a very different complexion.

As it was, a solitary and significant goal by substitute Zlatan Ibrahimovic was enough to separate the sides - significant in that the Swede has been targeted for failing to show up in the biggest of games - this goal continuing what has been an impressive start to his career in Catalonia.

For all the money spent and the valuations of Academy groomed players such as Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Raul and Casillas, an estimated £800million-plus worth of talent was on show in the two squads on Sunday night - but the star of the show was without doubt the Barcelona captain, Carles Puyol, a Catalan to the core.

For all the dexterity of Barcelona's attacking dimension, without their skipper Pep Guardiola's men would have surely lost.

Whilst Victor Valdes was rarely called into action, it was only because Puyol had made three goal-saving tackles to save his side.

Whilst the world tuned in to watch Messi amd Ronaldo go head-to-head and to see if Xabi Alonso and Diarra could contain Xavi & Iniesta - the defending of Puyol stole the show.

For all of Barca's brilliance on the ball every successful attacking side needs a platform to build upon - Puyol is Barca's.

There promises to be plenty of ebb and flow to the remainder of the Spanish season. Unfortunately Sevilla's inability to beat bottom of the table Malaga on Saturday night that followed Valencia failing to beat Mallorca at the Mestalla showed that the possibility of a four-horse title race will not happen.

Barcelona will also take comfort in the knowledge that the winner of the season's opening 'Classico' has gone on to win the Spanish League title in the last five seasons. They currently find themselves in the driving seat to take make it six.

READ BISH'S BRIEFS EXCLUSIVELY AT FOOTBALL.CO.UK EVERY TUESDAY

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:andy bishop
Having worked in radio, newspapers, magazines, internet and television I hope to now bring my passion for the game to your computer screens with analysis, comment and tongue-in-cheek humour on all things global in the world of football - from Barcelona to Boca and from Blatter to Berlusconi...enjoy!

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