The Clásico goes ahead, but without goals

The first thing to applaud was the game actually taking place. Outside the ground people gathered in protest, and even the odd bin went up in flames, but inside it went unnoticed. The match promised much but resulted in widespread disappointment with a lack of goals and neither keeper having to make a save. Madrid played well, with four in midfield occupying spaces intelligently and managing the game, and Benzema and Bale leading the attack. Benzema is above suspicion; Bale, not so much. There is always that nagging feeling that he tends to hold back against the smaller teams in order to shine against the bigger ones. Last night’s game was one such example but...

Big-game players

Talking of performing on bigger and smaller stages, the same thing – to a certain extent – could be said for Messi, who notches up hat-tricks in other types of matches but was only able to muster a few dangerous runs in the Clásico. Such a tight, tactical game was crying out for some decisive artistry from the big-game players, but it never came. In its absence, we were left with the journeymen to bring lustre, most notably Valverde. He reminds people of my age of Félix Ruiz, a box-to-box midfielder who joined Madrid with Zoco and a player who was plagued by injuries and, also a big smoker, died from a heart attack at a young age.

A draw and Madrid's attacking options

The draw was ultimately a victory for Madrid, particularly as it came in the Camp Nou and because they controlled the game and could justifiably bemoan the lack of VAR intervention. It’s true, however, that Benzema was isolated, with Hazard out, and Zidane, whose good intentions were unrewarded, went for Bale ahead of Vinicius or Rodrygo. Madrid are short up front and pin their hopes on Benzema, who deserves a better attacking partner than the stodgy Bale that appeared last night or the diffident Rodrygo. As far as Barça are concerned, we all know they are Messi and ten others. When Messi doesn’t show up what we are left with is ten other players who, on this occasion, didn't have enough to trouble Madrid.