Over 600 million people watched El Clasico, and I, like them, switched the match on to watch a rivalry that is so conceited that it assumes every game is a classic. What I saw was a ton of incredibly well-paid, well-groomed players on both sides who were wearing the stress of the day on their faces. The stakes were high. Real Madrid could sit atop the league or in a hole depending on the result. And the game felt like it. However, one thing people fail to note during most of these matches is that all of them are consequential. And because of that, what we get are matches that fail to live up to the hype every time.
In this year’s match, Barcelona destroyed Real Madrid 4-0 and probably ended Rafa Benitez’s reign with the club. But despite the most lopsided result in years, this match played out just like more evenly matched games have over the past few years. What are some of the characteristics of El Clasico?
Ticky-tacky fouling: Usually when less-talented teams play a more talented team, they resort to constant fouling and behind-the-ball heel clipping to slow down the better team. But when you have two teams whose annual salaries would equal the GDP of some countries, you would expect that they would not need to resort to constant ankle clipping and cheap forearms. Instead, the constant silly small fouls and cheap emotionally-driven heel clips disrupts the flow of the game and places the referee in the center of the match.
Constant injuries and/or flops: Similar to the above, the number of players who suffer major injuries in these matches are absurd, if by major injuries you mean players writhing on the field until the focus is off them. While in Saturday’s match, there was an early injury, both teams have numerous examples of fickle stars finding contact and rolling on the ground.
More whine than a California vineyard: While the crowding of the official is not as bad as it was during the Mourinho days, every whistle or contact needs a conversation. The referee is constantly cornered by players who gripe about the situation and/or a lack of a call. There is no worse job in soccer than the referee of an El Clasico match because your decisions are scrutinized on and off the field.