Sunday, March 22, 2015

Barcelona vs Real Madrid, El Clasico: live

10 min A few stern words from the referee to Gareth Bale for some mild off-the-ball roughhousing.
8 min First glimpse of Gareth Bale as he runs at the Barcelona defence, before slipping Benzema in down the right channel. His first-time shot is weak, however, and drifts wide of Bravo's goal.
7 min Iniesta is back with us, and his ankle appears to be structurally sound, on the evidence of another surge into Real territory. Carvajal quells the danger this time.
6 min Whistles all round as Real try to get their passing going in the Barcelona half. Ronaldo is strolling around up front, waiting for something to latch onto.
5 min Nutmeg #1 for Lionel Messi.
3 min Iniesta and Suarez share a swift one-two in the area, but Madrid clear for a corner. Iniesta, though, is lying in a crumpled heap behind the goal. He's in a huge amount of pain, but he's giving it a go...
2 min Iker Casillas - the saddest footballer in the known universe - hoofs a clearance into the home fans, which will help his mood.
1 min Rob Palmer and Gerry Armstrong pretending to be in the Nou Camp commentary gantry tonight for Sky. An underrated pair, if you ask me. Dabi Alves and Ivan Rakitic double-team Ronaldo, who shows zero interest in chasing after them to get the ball back.
20.00 Here we go!
19.59 There's the obligatory small pocket of hardy travelling souls, with ample disposable income, sat in Row ZZZZ:
<noframe>Twitter: Dermot Corrigan - 500 Madrid fans up in top corner of Camp Nou, away fans tickets were €111 each.</noframe>
19.56 The teams are in the tunnel, there are inter-club handshakes, arms on shoulders and pats on backs of heads. Not for long though, eh?!
19.44 It seems that Senthamarai Subramanian is no fan of Cristiano Ronaldo:
19.40 Meanwhile, Sky Sports' Scott Minto is joined by Alex Song, Gael Clichy and Guillem Balague in the now familiar surroundings of what looks like a Spanish attempt at a Harvester:

19.33 A message of festive joy from Lauren Gallagher:
E-mail Liverpool vs Manchester United & Real Madrid vs Barcelona on the same day? This day should be named the Christmas of club football
Almost, Lauren. That's transfer deadline day. Days like today are more like Easter: overindulgent, often sugar-coated and no-one's quite sure what the ultimate point is.
19.30 I enjoy watching Messi and Ronaldo - I really do - but I'd welcome this man back with open digital arms:

Pure goalscoring, with precisely none of the trimmings.
19.21 Assuming this dedicated chap in the middle even has a match ticket, he's never getting in carrying that lot.

19.13 Here's the alternative Christmas message:
<noframe>Twitter: Unfitforpurpose - Your annual reminder that the classico is nothing but a way to celebrate two superclubs hoarding all the talent they possibly can.</noframe>
19.10 The teamsheets are in!
Barcelona: Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mathieu, Alba; Rakitic, Mascherano, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar
Subs: Ter Stegen, Montoya, Bartra, Adriano, Busquets, Xavi, Rafinha, Roberto, Pedro
Real Madrid: Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, Isco; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
Subs: Navas, Varane, Hernandez, Lucas Silva, Arbeloa, Jese, Illarramendi
18.59 Evening.
There's a creeping, global dilemma facing the world's anglophone football writers. Research has found that the earth's supply of superlatives for its two greatest footballers is running perilously low, forcing some to resort to whimsical, knowing understatement instead. Luckily for you, I'm so far unaffected by the superlative drought. So, tonight, a certain little Argentine by the name of Lionel Messi goes head-to-head with a former Sporting Lisbon wonderkid Cristiano Ronaldo (whatever happened to him?!) in the small matter ofEl Clasico. Not bad, eh?
Football's cruise/crisis dichotomy dictates that Barcelona's stock is back on the rise, while Real - with a scowling Ronaldo, a boo-plagued Gareth Bale and an under-pressure Carlo Ancelotti - are feeling the strain.
Back to the main protragonists: Jason Burt suggests that Messi's recent performances - Ballon d'Or or no Ballon d'Or - give him the edge over Ronaldo, who is cutting a frustrated figure:
Heading into Sunday's El Clasico, there were two images from the build-up that appeared to sum up the contrasting fortunes of the two highest-profile clubs in the world and the two best players.
The first came last Sunday when Real Madrid beat Levante 2-0 - and the petulant reaction of Cristiano Ronaldo as his bicycle kick resulted not in a goal for him, but for Gareth Bale. Ronaldo angrily waving his arm was about himself, not about the team.
The second image was the joy in Lionel Messi's face as he congratulated Ivan Rakitic after the Croatian had smartly collected Messi's wonderful chipped cross-ball to score the goal that beat Manchester City at the Nou Camp.
It appears, also, that such is their force of personality that it almost seems impossible for Messi and Ronaldo to thrive at the same time. So, going into El Clasico at the Nou Camp, it is Ronaldo's physical and mental state that is dominating the agenda.

There has been inevitable mischief with Hristo Stoichkov stirring the pot by claiming in the Spanish sports daily AS that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez could be considering selling Ronaldo this summer.
"Messi at the moment is much better," he said. "Maybe the obsession with Messi affects [Ronaldo]."
Despite his obvious bias, it is an intriguing point that adds yet another dimension to this remarkable clash.
17.00 Good afternoon. It is the most expensive match in the world. El Clasico almost never disappoints and this one should be no different.
Twenty-seven games into the season just one point separates Spain's two premier clubs. Lionel Messi's Barcelona sit top of La Liga on 65 points with Cristiano Ronaldo and chums on 64.
It's a bit early to say this match will decide La Liga's champions but... this match will (possibly) decide La Liga's champions.
Adam Hurrey is the man in the hotseat and will be here from around 7pm GMT with all the pre-match build-up, team news and action. Do join him.


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