BARCELONA's run of four games in eighteen days against REAL MADRID started with a 1-1 draw in the league game at the Bernebeau. The title run in in Spain lacks intrigue because Barca are eight points clear and there is no chance they will relinquish that lead. Even had Madrid won this game, you wouldn't have given them much hope. But the game was interesting as a prelude to the bigger ones on the horizon.
Barca showed yet again their lack of a ruthless edge. Every team has its flaws, even one as accomplished as this Barca, who are embarrassingly superior to every other team in Europe.
David Villa has gone nine games without scoring, and snatched at a couple of chances lastnight. It seems ridiculous to be critical of Messi, who is going to finish with more than 50 goals this season, but he has developed a tendency to be a little too cute in front of goal. It does not usually matter, because with Xavi and Iniesta pulling the strings, there is usually another chance on the way. But in the very biggest games, it could prove costly.
You only need to reflect on the Arsenal tie. Over the two legs, and especially the second, there was an evident, yawning chasm in quality between the two teams. In the deciding game, Arsenal could not manage a shot, whereas Barca, after RVP's red card in particular, produced an endless litany of wasted opportunities, as well as the three goals. 4-3 on aggregate, the final score, did not do justice to the balance of play over two legs. It could have been 14-3. But had Bendtner stuck away that late chance, Barca could have gone out. That surely served as a warning- they need to take more of their chances, or their greatness will go to waste.
In the latest game against Real, Barca held the expected monopoly on possession. But chances did not flow. Mourinho was never going to repeat the mistake of the Nou Camp game in autumn, when he abandoned his habitual policy of containment against Barca, and saw his team spanked. While Barca were, again, the better side, they failed to finish the game off, even at a goal and a man up. Real always looked as of they could score from a set piece.
Eventually, a penalty was awarded, Ronaldo stuck it away, and the ten men had a point. It was a good performance from Barca and they will doubtless play with more intensity in the games to come, but so will Real, and it must worry Guardiola a little that recent big matches have seen his team fail to turn a stylistic superiority into a scoreline to match. I wonder if Real might be the team to punish their profligacy.