All over Europe this weekend there was great matches, England had the Merseyside derby and the clash of the two London giants Arsenal and Chelsea. Italy had the Genoa derby and Fiorentina v Inter, and in Iberia, we had the two most heated rivalries in Iberian futebol. Sporting vs Benfica and Barcelona vs Real Madrid. Since I am both a Benfiquista and a Cule these we're two matches I couldn't miss.
O Derby de Lisboa
Historically, this derby would split the city between the upper class Sporting supporters against the people's club of Benfica, these days I am sure that the social economic divide between the two supporters sections is not so distinct.
This particular match played at the new Jose Alvalade stadium in Lisbon was a baptism of fire for Sporting's new coach Carlos Carvalhal. However, Sporting's new manager seemed to be ready for the battle. His side who we're recently "abandoned" by former coach Paulo Bento, have been struggling this year, but in this match the Lions looked a hungry bunch.
Jorge Jesus' Benfica, have been one of the better vintages of recent years. Jesus has got them playing some fantastic futebol, usually playing in a diamond midfield formation that on it's more attacking end has the two Argentines Di Maria and Aimar and on the defensive point Real reject Javi Garcia, and tireless Brasilian Ramires, who is nicknamed the Kenyan for his marathon like performances.
In the first half of Saturday's match Carvalhal surprised Jesus playing a 4-3-3 with 3 Sporting youth products in midfield, Adrien Silva, Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso. These 3 worked hard to win the midfield battle early on that it eventually forced Jesus to switch tactics himself to a 4-3-3 from his diamond. He took away some of Aimar's freedom at the tip of the diamond and moved him to the right of the midfield trio with Ramires moved over to the left of anchor man Javi Garcia. This led to the first half being a bit stale afterwards as both teams cancelled eachother out.
The second half was a quite the spectacle. There was some great passages of pretty open attacking futebol played by both sides. A fair result for the match it self I believe should have been a 1-1 draw, neither team was really superior so I hate to say either team deserved to win, but the second half alone deserved some goals.
Some things I noticed while watching this match:
-Veloso looks fit and hungry something that is bound to be good for the selecção. He also looks best fit to play in midfield, some where that his lack of pace isn't really exposed but his range of passing is.
-Adrien Silva I have read a bit about this kid but have not seen too much of him, although from the past two matches I seen, the U21 match against England and yesterday's derby he doesn't look quite there yet, still a bit wet behind the ears.
-Di Maria looked a bit off colour and selfish yesterday, as did Aimar after he was forced to play on the right of the midfield three.
-David Luiz also wasn't at his best and was fouling a bit too much.
This is probably the most anticipated match in world futebol, a collide of two massive clubs, with very distinct philosophies.
The last time these clubs met last season at the Bernabeu in Madrid, Barça embarrassed Madrid with a 6-2 drubbing infront of their home supporters, today's match at the Camp Nou was quite different, the fact that my man of the match is Barça's charismatic captain and center-back Carles Puyol should tell a big part of the story.
In the first part of the first half Madrid seemed to have Barça rattled. Real was pressing high up the pitch and Barça had a hard time getting their passing game going. Ronaldo was looking quite sharp for some one just coming back from a long lay off and Lass Diarra looked explosive in midfield things we're not looking bright for the Catalans. As the half grew on Barça started to find their feet and we're able to start forming their little triangles up and down the pitch. And they ended up finishing the half a bit stronger.
One of the more memorable parts of the 6-2 match was that Messi played a lot of the match as a "false 9" spending a lot of time in the middle of the pitch closing triangles with Xavi and Iniesta, the difference in that match was that on opposite sides of Messi in that match you had Eto'o and Henry two players always looking to get in behind the Real Madrid defense who kept their back line honest against Messi which gave him more room to operate, today however the front trio was Henry, Messi and Iniesta. With Henry normally isolated up front while Messi and Iniesta tried to scheme in the midfield. Pellegrini had the perfect counter for this, he had two terriers in the center of the pitch (Lass and Alonso) closing down and tackling Messi and Iniesta, while his back 4 played a fairly high line compressing them even further, this was due to the fact that they didn't really fear Henry as they knew in Pepe and Ramos they had a match for his pace.
This all changed when Henry came off for Ibrahimovic, With Ibra on the pitch and able to link with the midfield. Messi was allowed to play higher up and more to the left of Barça's attack, this kept Real's back 4 pinned a bit further back and not as compact with their midfield core which gave Barça the room to play the futebol they like to in midfield. Some of this room was found by Alves when he hit the cross to Ibra who finished brilliantly for the only goal of the match.
All that being said Madrid we're quite good today, the best I have ever seen them play as the Galacticos II. So good in fact that Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes had to be absolutely sensational to hold on to this victory especially after the red card for Busquets.
Here are some links of interest regarding the two Iberian classics that took place this weekend.
The distance between Estadio Da Luz and Estadio Jose Alvalade in Lisboa.
A video on the rivalry between Sporting and Benfica.
A video on the rivalry between Barca and Real Madrid.
A link to my pics from our honeymoon in Catalunya!