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Premier League’s Stuttered Start is to El Clasico’s Gain

August 18, 2011

Take a deep breath. It’s the morning after the night before where the latest instalment of El Clasico was played out for the world to see. This time it was in the form of what some may call a glamourised pre-season game that no one remembers easily come a season’s completion never mind throughout the annals of history.

Nonetheless the football played over the course of the two legs of the Super Copa was of the highest standard and had many a English Premier League torchbearer ducking for cover as those watching saw an excellent spectacle played out before them. As a contest it has everything needed to be spectacular. While last night’s game will be marred for many by the now traditional fight at the end of a game, the football played and the game’s true protagonists should not be forgotten.

The Super Copa’s two-legged format is often derided as meaningless in line with everything associated with the trophy’s perception of meaning nothing. With such, pressure on the tie is diminished and it could well be that with the significantly lesser stature of the Super Copa the freedom it would exude encouraged the mesmeric gameplay that occurred over the two legs.

Of course, such an occasion brings comparisons to other games of similar standing: one sticking out in the mind is that of the Manchester derby played out at Wembley for the FA Community Shield. It was a game that entertained but it seemed more as mildly filling a void in the collective consciousness before the real thing, the Premier League, began (who were they to know that the opening weekend of the Premier League would prove to be something of a damp squib). The audience was suitably entertained but the game was littered with basic errors of judgement and it all appeared it was all because of such errors rather than the manipulation to cause them. The pace of play that is often used as the cornerstone of the Premier League’s marketing was not as good as it could’ve been. Whether that’s simply because of the way the context of the game is conveyed, it’s open to discussion. The two teams also offered differing styles but with room to grow as teams. Manchester City are still very much a work-in-progress as a club. Some pundits believe they will challenge for the title and it could well turn out to be correct but the Premier League is not quite the six horse race that it’s made out to be. To put this in perspective, Real Madrid versus Barcelona is a game between comfortably the two biggest and best squads in Spain. While Manchester City have an abundance of talent at their disposal, it would be safe to say that the two best squads in England are those of Manchester United and Chelsea in line with recent history and current European standing. In a nutshell, both protagonists last night are fully-formed giants of their domestic league while the Manchester derby still has one club larger in standing than the other.

Barcelona versus Real Madrid was such a regular feature of European football last season that it fell into a format akin to a saga. The games between the two where the pressure was at its most intense, the UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals, brought out the perceived negatives of the sport as there was so much at stake that the teams used everything possible to be victorious. Last night’s scenes at the end of the game may well be grouped with the events of last year but it seemed that with the competition environment change, it appeared more as a warm-up and so the seriousness of it seemed downplayed somewhat. Not to excuse such behaviour but it seems to have become dare it be said accepted in such a game between these two heavyweights of world football. It’s become part and parcel of the spectacle that is offered when an audience comes to El Clasico.

Unfortunately, circumstances are that last night’s game will linger in the immediate memory of Spanish football a little while longer with the players’ strikes causing the La Liga season to be delayed at least for a week. One thing that last night did do was show that for spectacle and pure entertainment, an instalment in El Clasico edges what the Premier League currently has to offer. No matter what Richard Scudamore and his associates say.

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