By Kevin Koczwara
This weekend was another weekend of big games with top-four implications, fights for first place, and possible relegation for a perennial mid-table team.
There was the Merseyside derby in Liverpool, Everton verse Liverpool, and the ‘El Clasico’ in Spain between La Liga’s giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Both matches are always important to fans of the clubs and the players, and like most years, these derby’s were important for the clubs themselves as they try and wrangle good position in their respected leagues.
Let’s Start in Spain
This isn’t just a game, it is a rivalry steeped in history, politics and features two of the most popular and powerful clubs in the world.
Real Madrid is a symbol of royalty in the world of Soccer and Spain. Madrid is the capital of Spain, it was the home of Spain’s royalty and has been the capital of Spain since the 17th century. Real Madrid is the most successful team in European football–they have won 9 European titles, won their countries top league (La Liga) 14 times, and their countries cup tournament (Copa del Rey) 14 times. And with the galactico’s era in the 2000’s the club has become soccer royalty in their own right because they have purchased the world’s best players for record fee and wages, and marketed their brand with those players making the clubs value rise and their brand has sky-rocketed.
Barcelona on the other hand is the club of the Catalans. During the Franco regime all of Spain’s local and regional cultures were suppressed, and so the Catalan people — Barcelona is the Capital of Catalonia — began to support FC Barcelona as a way of showing their support not just for the club but for their regional language and lifestyle. And the supporters viewed Real Madrid supporters as supporters of the dictatorship. So, naturally Barcelona fans have a dislike for their rivals outside of sport.
As for FC Barcelona, it is on many levels just as successful as Real Madrid, domestically the club is far and away more successful. The club has racked up 19 La Liga titles, 25 Copa del Rey titles, and they are 3 times the champions of Europe.
This year looked like it would be a game of goals. Both teams are stacked to the brim with star talent, and big name players. But the game ended up as a 1-0 win for Barcelona with many of the notable players only playing bit-parts (except for the notable volley by Ibrahimovic that scored the only goal, he was a subbed in off the bench because he has been injured as of late).
The game was won and lost in the style of play and the strong showing of the under appreciated Barcelona defense, most notably their captain Carles Puyol.Puyol stopped shots and played like a man possessed. He single handily stopped much of the Madrid attack.
The game was filled with missed opportunities, and Madrid play-maker Xabi Alonso has come out and stressed that. “We played close together and knew how to move the ball quickly in attack, but all we missed out on was a goal,” Alonso told Real Madrid’s team Web site. And he is right, they should have scored, but they didn’t and that is how games are judged–who scores more goals.
While Madrid searches for their identity and a way to finish games, Barcelona continue to chug along with their patent style of control and possession with a dash of beautiful football. With the win, Barcelona move back into first in La Liga, with a 2 point advantage over Madrid. And they are now in possession and control again.
The Merseyside Clash
Liverpool and Everton are only separated by a few miles. Anfield was once the playing grounds of Everton–they moved in to Goodison Park in 1892–and is now the home of Liverpool. Liverpool are the new kids on the block up in the Merseyside, being founded in 1892 while Everton was founded in 1872. Everton has the longest run of years spent in England’s top-flight of football, 109 seasons. But Liverpool has the titles– 18 English top-flight titles. And both are struggling to stay on form this year.
Liverpool is falling out of the top-four, which would mean that the team would not be able to compete in next year’s Champions League (unless they win the UEFA Cup, which is still an option). Everton is in the danger zone, they could be relegated, which could be disastrous because the team would lose an enormous amount of revenue and be forced to probably sell off some of their top stars. This game meant the world to the two clubs, and the rivalry shows no signs of slowing down.
Liverpool won the game 2-0, neither goal very convincing. But the story is how Everton saw the better chances and how Pepe Reina stopped Everton on multiply chances. And with the win, Liverpool have moved into 5th in the English Premier League table and Everton have fallen further down into 16th. Even a struggling Hull City is above Everton in the table. The Toffees need to make a big move come the next few weeks or else they will be staring relegation in the face come the Christmas break.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at email@example.com. Follow The Soccer Guys on Twitter @TheSoccerGuys or follow Kevin @kkoczwara.
Highlights Time, Check’em
Liverpool v Everton
Real Madrid v Barcelona (Couldn’t find a good version in English)