Barça won thanks to a standout Messi
Barcelona may have beaten Malaga but they gave their two rivals from the capital hope. Luis Enrique’s side didn’t play well. Lately they’ve drawn three games they deserved to win; yesterday they balanced the books, taking home three points they didn’t deserve. A physical and intense Malaga side made things difficult for them. Somehow you get the impression that when Luis Enrique deviates from his preferred starting XI, things start to go wrong. A number of key players were missing yesterday, including Neymar, and the team wasn’t the same. Of course, Messi played and scored the winner. You could say that Barcelona won because of a standout Messi.
Today it’s Real Madrid’s turn to play away from home in Andalusia. Their rivals, Betis, have a new manager and are looking for that boost that a coaching change often brings. Look no further than Zidane. Merino started out with a resounding defeat against Sevilla in the Cup, but enters this game buoyed by a creditable draw at El Madrigal against Villarreal. Madrid make the trip in high spirits and will hope to maintain momentum. Today is Zidane’s first away match in charge. Neither Sergio Ramos nor Bale is available. The absence of the latter poses a dilemma: should James return to the starting line up, or will Jesé be given the nod instead?
Zidane has committed to the BBC and, naturally, a 4-3-3 formation. Last week, he kept the same set-up when Bale went off injured and even after substituting Benzema. Today, away from home, some believe he could opt for a midfield of Kroos, Modric, Isco and James in a 4-4-2 like Ancelotti used to on occasion. I’m more inclined to believe that the Frenchman will go with Jesé in a front three and stick with his favoured approach. James’ demotion to the substitute’s bench has created a storm in Colombia so strong that it has reached our shores and it will continue to be the talk of the town this afternoon.