Clasico provides positives for both Real Madrid and Barcelona
Barcelona, March 23 (IANS) FC Barcelona fans are the ones who were still smiling on Monday morning in the wake of their side's 2-1 La Liga win at home against Real Madrid in the El Clasico.
The result lifts Barcelona four points ahead of their eternal rivals in the La Liga with just 10 games left to play this season and although both Barcelona coach Luis Enrique and his Real Madrid counterpart Carlo Ancelotti were at pains to play it down, the Catalan club are now favourites to win the league title.
However, Sunday's game left something for supporters of both sides to draw positives from and also to worry about.
The pro-Real Madrid press on Monday highlighted their side's excellent first half, pointing to the return to form and fitness of Luka Modric, who controlled the central midfield, where Barcelona clearly missed the influence of the injured Sergio Busquets.
Real Madrid had chances to have gone in 1-2 or even 1-3 up at the break, but those chances went begging either through poor finishing or the excellent goalkeeping of Claudio Bravo in the Barcelona goal.
The attacking trio of Gareth Bale, Ronaldo and especially Karim Benzema were in their best form and talk of crisis looked to be in the past as Madrid looked more like the side which won 22 consecutive games earlier this season.
It all fell apart in the second half though. Once striker Luis Suarez had restored Barcelona's lead in the 55th minute, Real Madrid were like a deflated balloon. Modric's lack of match fitness became apparent while Bale disappeared as if he had donned an invisibility cloak and in the end it was the home team who could have won by a wider margin.
Barcelona fans will point to that as their positive, along with the fact the side showed certain versatility in using long passes to their attacking trio of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Suarez to overcome the absence of Busquets and the relatively poor form of midfielder Andres Iniesta.
It was telling that they opened the scoring with a header goal from a set piece, something that has become increasingly common this season, while Suarez just gets better and better, both in terms of goals and assists.
But Barcelona fans will worry about Neymar's missed chances and his poor recent form; those missed chances could still come back to haunt Barcelona given that Madrid won the first meeting this season 3-1. That means should the two sides finish the season level on points, Real Madrid and not Barcelona would be Champions although with 10 matches left this season there is still plenty of time left for more drama.