Nig writes at the Barcelona blog.
Despite only being two games into the Spanish league season there are quite a few conclusions that can already be made. While last season may have had a thrilling finale, it was not a vintage season for either Real Madrid or Barcelona. This summer has seen many changes, Madrid even sacking their coach, Fabio Capello, because performances weren’t up to scratch.
Madrid received a lot of criticism for kicking out Capello, but after just two league games under Bernd Schuster the signs are that president Ramón Calderón may well have made not only a brave decision, but also a correct one.
Madrid made some big signings this summer. The ones who look likely to get most first team chances are Pepe, Royston Drenthe and Wesley Sneijder. Pepe is a powerful central defender signed for â‚¬30 from Porto, while Drenthe is an attacking left back who has been brought in to replace Roberto Carlos. Like the Brazilian, Drenthe looks good going forward but could be vulnerable in defence.
Sneijder looks to be Madrid’s best signing. Playing on the left side of midfield, but with a license to roam, he will cause defences many problems this season. With three goals already in just two games, Schuster will be hoping for around 15 goals from the Dutchman.
Another positive for Los Merengues is the form of both Raúl and Guti. Raúl has returned to his natural position and is now looking sharp playing up front alongside Ruud van Nistlerooy. A goal in both league games so far suggests that he is close to regaining the form of a few years ago. It seems as though Guti has forever been a promising prospect at Madrid, now aged 30, he could finally find the consistancy to make him not only a first team regular, but also the star of the team.
Madrid are current league champions and are also the only team with six points from two games, but despite this, Barça are still bookmakers’ favourite to win this year’s title. This could be due to the summer signings of Thierry Henry, Eric Abidal, Gabi Milito and Toure Yaya.
Barça recognised that they had weaknesses in certain positions and signed accordingly. Milito has yet to start a game but will be hoping to form a great cental defensive partnership with Carles Puyol. Eric Abidal has come into the team for the departing Gio van Bronckhorst, and already seems to be a big improvement at left back.
With Samuel Eto’o injured, Thierry Henry should now get a good run in the team to show what he can do. He has shown flashes of his genius but will probably need more time to adapt to his new team. Even without Eto’o, Barça can still claim to have the best strike force in the world, and if Messi, Ronaldinho and Henry don’t do the business, Barça have two youngsters in Giovani dos Santos and Bojan Krkic who are ready to hit the world stage.
The signing of Toure Yaya for â‚¬10 from Monaco could turn out to be the signing of the season. Physically he is very strong and he covers a lot of ground to win the ball back, his distribution is good and he also packs one hell of a shot with both feet.
Despite all this, Barça have still shown weaknesses in their first games. In the first game against Racing Santander, Barça lacked the imagination and fighting spirit to break through against a well organized defence. While in their second game against Athletic Bilbao, what should have been an easy victory became more complicated after defensive mistakes let Athletic pull a goal back, and only a terrible mistake by the linesman allowed Barça to restore their two-goal lead.
So, will Barça continue to make the same mistakes as they did last year, or will the talent in their squad be enough to win it for them? And will Madrid remain consistant over the whole season to maintain their title. With 36 games still to go, there is everything to play for.
Nig writes at the Barcelona blog.