AS victories go, they could hardly have been more different. Barcelona and Real Madrid continued their pre-season preparations on Wednesday night in two elite friendly fixtures. But although both ended on the winning side, the similarities ended there.
Barca beat Manchester United 2-0 on penalties following a goalless 90 minutes against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in Sweden, before a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Madrid thrashed AC Milan 5-1 well into the European night in a match played in New York.
Here, Goal.com looks at what the two teams will have learned from their respective friendly fixtures on Wednesday, with La Liga looming just 10 days away.
Alba perfect at left back
Jordi Alba only trained with Barcelona for the first time on Wednesday, having played both Euro 2012 and the Olympics for Spain this summer, but the former Valencia left-back was immediately thrust into action against Manchester United, a club that had also tried to sign him recently. And he didn’t disappoint.
Alba replaced Adriano with around 25 minutes left and La Masia graduate looked as if he had never been away from the Catalan club, attacking with his usual energy down the left and producing some clever crosses as Barca sought to win the game later on. It was a small sample of what is to come for Barcelona — and the fans will have liked what they saw.
Barca’s has safe hands
In a game in which they dominated possession but created comparatively few clear-cut chances, Barca had their goalkeepers to thank for the victory in the end.
Victor Valdes stepped up to save a penalty from Wayne Rooney late in the first half and stand-in Jose Pinto produced some heroics of his own as he foiled Ashley Young in the subsequent shootout. Pinto’s penalty record for the Catalans is simply astonishing — he has saved seven of the 20 he’s faced, with a further three failing to find the net.
Both Valdes and Pinto came in for criticism last season, but on this evidence Barca’s goalkeeping gloves appear to be in safe hands in 2012-13.
Di Maria is unstoppable
There’s not much subterfuge to what will happen when Angel Di Maria gets the ball. He’s going to knock it forward, he’s going to beat his defender for pace and then he’s going to bear down on goal. The complicated part is defending against it.
Versus the LA Galaxy in the first friendly, Di Maria torched Bryan Gaul, setting up a goal and scoring one in the first quarter of an hour. Granted, Gaul is an MLS rookie, but against Milan, the Argentine showed he can do it against Italian marking. He consistently embarrassed Luca Antonini and Djamel Mesbah, forcing Milan to stick seven players on the edge of their box for much of the match.
Of course, when you can hit a one-time swerving volley to open the scoring like he did, that helps too.
Kaka proves class
Kaka played half an hour against his former (and possibly future) club. He’s been in quietly excellent form throughout the US pre-season tour, and didn’t waste any time reminding Milan what he can bring.
Five minutes after he entered as a substitute for Mesut Ozil, Kaka took two devastating touches. With one, he trapped a heavy Gonzalo Higuain crossfield pass as he spun toward goal. With the second, he scooted the ball under a challenge and forwarded to intersect Cristiano Ronaldo’s run.
All the Portuguese had to do was finish his open chance and the game was iced at 3-1.
Later, Kaka’s corner assisted Sergio Ramos’ headed goal and he set up Jose Callejon’s final strike. The Brazilian has spent much of the summer in limbo. But it hasn’t affected his upbeat demeanour (as evidenced by a light-hearted interruption of an Angel Di Maria television interview on Monday), and by all accounts it hasn’t diminished his ability to impact matches, either.
Sahin won’t be staying
Jose Mourinho was forthcoming when discussing Nuri Sahin’s future after the Galaxy game: Madrid will help the Turkish midfielder leave if he wants to depart. Considering that the 23-year-old is fifth choice in midfield, he’ll surely pick a new club.
Thus far on the US tour, Sahin has played as a left-back to give Fabio Coentrao a break with Marcelo away at the Olympics. In midfield, Sahin finds himself behind Lass Diarra, Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Esteban Granero. The potential arrival of Luka Modric would only further limit his playing time.