Bish's Briefs - Madrid and Barca are better than ever
Published: 09 Mar 2010 - 15:09:41
Saturday night saw Real Madrid storm to the summit of La Liga courtesy of stellar and storming comeback against Sevilla.
Two down and with half an hour to play, Manuel Pellegrini rolled his dice and gambled. Off came Alvaro Arbeloa and Lassana Diarra, on came Guti and Rafael van der Vaart. It worked. Half an hour later the Bernabeu reverberated to levels unheard in recent years with substitute Van der Vaart prodding home a stoppage-time winner.
After former Real man Alvaro Negredo and then Ivica Dragutinovic had given Sevilla the lead - in what was Real's first true test at home this campaign - a chance to usurp Barca after their earlier 2-2 draw at Almeria appeared distinguished.
Their stirring comeback after Cristiano Ronaldo pulled them back in to the game after 61 minutes served up the game of La Liga so far this season - one for those who love the verve and vigour of Spanish football. This was a game that showcased all of the reasons that draw people to football stadiums and television screens the world over.
It was tough on Manolo Jimenez and Sevilla. But the game showed their plight in a microcosm - a wonderfully gifted and able side that fall just below the very top. On Saturday they traded blow-for-blow with the games most expensive assembly of players and fell short. Just.
Incredibly, Jiminez finds himself under constant sniping and suspicion at Sevilla. This season he has guided his side to a Copa del Rey Final, they are well placed to advance to the last eight of the Champions League, and currently lie 4th in La Liga and with every chance of outlasting Valencia and finishing third. What else can be expected.
The bar in Spanish football has probably never been higher. Barcelona who have beaten the world in the last 18 months have played football up there with the best we have ever seen. Madrid, who are level on points, but ahead of Barcelona on goal difference, have had to perform better in the League than they have in almost half a century just to do so - armed with a transfer arsenal of around a quarter of billion pounds. What chance Sevilla?
Under Juande Ramos, Sevilla won back-to-back UEFA Cups. They have only won the Spanish League once. The season they won their second successive UEFA Cup beating Mallorca at Hampden Park they were within striking distance of the La Liga crown until the final day.
Jiminez has a wonderful side at his disposal. In attack he can call upon the talents of Alvaro Negredo, Frederic Kanoute and Luis Fabiano, Brazil's number nine, who will surely leave the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan after this summer's World Cup.
In midfield, he has helped to garner and nurture the talents of Jesus Navas, Diego Capel and Diego Perotti, who was magnificent in the company of the 'galaticos' on Saturday night. All three are players who he worked with during his time as coach of the club's B side.
At the back Julien Escude, Ivica Dragutinovic and Sebastien Squillaci are very capable defenders. Their final line of defence is goalkeeper Andres Palop who retains a wealth of talent as he comes towards the end of an eventful career.
In previous eras this side would have enough to win La Liga - a weaker group came close enough in 06-07. Sevilla are capable of beating anyone on their day. Ask Barcelona, who were eliminated from cup competition for the first time since Pep Guardiola took over, in the Copa del Rey in January. Talk of relinquishing the former Sevilla skipper of his duties is ridiculous.
The Deloitte Football Rich List was released last week. Real Madrid and Barcelona were named as the world's two richest clubs largely thanks to their ability to negotiate their own television rights deals. There is no other Spanish side in the top 20.
The gulf in class between them and Sevilla is not as vast but it is the gulf in durability that can be built upon greater resources that explains why the Andalusian club's recent success has been found in cup competition. They will continue to do so this season - a decent run in the Champions League is certainly not beyond them.
Over a 38-game season they do not have the legs to go the distance. A bit like Saturday.
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