Page last updated on Wed Apr 01 18:34:19 EDT 2015
Sun, 11 Dec 2011 08:42 PM EST

For all that this was a classic Clasico, the most pure-blooded of Spanish soccer matches, it put me under consideration of that golden time of boxing when Muhammad Ali and the late, great Joe Frazier were going after one another. Frazier was a stunning competitor at his top — power and aggression and an infernal need to win. Ali was the stylist — quick of mind and paw and feet and tongue.

Of course, it became private. And I swear that as well as driving Frazier loony with rage, Ali’s ridiculing of his rival, whom he secretly both feared and respected, reached a stage where he promised to “whop” Smokin ‘ Joe with one hand tied behind his back. Football lines

The Barca vs Real Madrid contention has always been that charged, that electric, that animated. But right now, Pep Guardiola’s team is Ali and Madrid, Frazier. Football betting lines

Whether Barca resolved to fight with one hand behind their back by conceding a comedy goal (comic unless you are Victor Valdes or Guardiola) in a few seconds of the kickoff as the Bernabeu bayed for Catalan blood and payback for the 5-0 that Los Merengues had to suffer last year, we might never know. But to then suck up the pressure, totally turn the tide, score 3 goals and threaten 3 or 4 more may be more satisfying for Guardiola and his men than winning 5-0 at their will last Nov.

Make no mistake about it. This could have been 6-2 or 7-2. Had the Spanish and European champions added goals from Andres Iniesta, Xavi or David Villa, there would have been no ground for complaint from their enemies.

If you may permit me to change the metaphor from boxing to the flicks, Barca, at least for Madrid, are like the villain the good guy has just about shaken off. We know there are only 6 or 7 minutes left in the film, but the director is telling us with his camera the bad guy isn’t truly dead, just hiding behind the door, and that there are at least 4 more minutes of fight scenes left. Think Glenn Close, “Fatal Attraction,” the bath, the knife and Anne Archer. Whenever Madrid thinks it has Barca on the ropes, it is wrong and its audience is howling, “They are not dead yet, deal with them, deal with them!”

Up one-nil here Saturday but still massacred. Up one-nil in the game that stopped 6-2 in Barca’s favour during Guardiola’s first, fabulous, season in control. An one-nil victory in the Cup last this past April but beaten 2-0 at home in the Champions League semi-final a week later. Madrid simply can’t produce a knockout blow.

When Xavi strolled off the pitch Saturday night, and he’d have had every right to have been smoking a cigar, he stopped to indicate that “despite our early mistake, which was our fault, we were totally superior to them in all areas of the pitch. This was a superb performance by the lads.”

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