Last night’s Copa Del Rey semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou was yet another chance to see the world’s two best players in action, and it was Christiano Ronaldo who shone brightest.
Ronaldo scored a penalty in the first half, added a second on the hour, with Raphael Varane putting the game to bed for Madrid with a header. Although Barcelona had most of the possession, there was no cutting edge to their game, and so Ronaldo and co tore up the form book with some top-class counter-attacking.
Barcelona did pull back a late goal, but it was too little too late. So Real Madrid goes on to contest their 38th Copa Del Rey final, while Barcelona need to re-group to get their season back on track.
Lionel Messi was poor and ineffectual, and the worrying thing for Barcelona is: when Messi is poor, Barcelona is poor – although it has to be said that it is a rarity when that happens.
Nevertheless, only weeks ago, everyone seemed confident that Barcelona would win the treble. It is almost a certainty that they will win the Liga, but they are out of the Copa Del Rey and have a very problematic 2-0 deficit to overcome in the Champions League quarter-finals against AC Milan.
Milan does not have a Ronaldo, but they would have watched last night’s game closely, and will defend well and also try to hit Barcelona on the counter-attack. Messi will have to be firing on all cylinders that night, as a season that promised so much could end up giving so little – at least for the expectations of a side like Barcelona.