The game in question is Santos v Barcelona. The small matter before is of both teams beating their respective opponents at the Club World Cup in Japan.
That won’t be as easy as it sounds. Last year TP Mazembe stunned Internacional of Brazil, but this Santos team are better than they. Paulo Henrique Ganso and Neymar are two world class talents, surrounded by a solid team which includes the likes of Danilo and Elano. At the back Jonathan and Edu Dracena provide solidity, and give Santos a genuinely quality side who can compete against Europe’s premier side.
That Barcelona team take few prisoners on the continent, with Real Madrid regularly shrugged off, and they are a team of substantial quality. Their talents need little reminder. Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Lionel Messi….Santos will have their work cut out. But Muricy Ramalho will be able to bring out the best in his team and set them up tactically to deny Barcelona. Ramalho is a pragmatist and Pep Guardiola will not find it easy against his team.
This will be a clash of potentially epic proportions. Two teams with some of the best talents on the planet taking each other on in what will hopefully be a fast paced, frenetic game. The Santos team of the 1960s, with Pele, could not play against this Barcelona side but at least his successors will. Though that team was unparalleled in Brazilian football, this team has its chance to lay down its own marker. Competition between the South American sides and Europeans invariably is a fascinating contest, and it is so rare that the relative merits of sides on the two continents can be compared. The clash between Barcelona and Santos offers a unique opportunity to do just that. It will be a unique occasion, providing Neymar and Ganso a worldwide audience and possibly the chance to propel the World Club Cup to a greater profile.
It will also give them the chance to show their talents and advertise themselves for a move to Europe, though both would already seem to have plenty of suitors lining up to take them. It will be sooner rather than later that both arrive in Europe, probably after next summer’s Olympic Games, at which Brazil will hope to win their first gold.
The tactical battle in Japan will be intriguing; will Ganso’s penetrating passes be defended well by Barcelona? Can Daniel Alves’ forward runs cause Barcelona a problem against a team with the attacking skill to take advantage of gaps? Can Santos cope with Barcelona’s pressing and high tempo attacking and passing game? All these and more will make for one of the most intriguing battles of the season.
Until then we have just this, the Santos v Barcelona game, a chance to see the greatest team of both continents face each other in what will be a game for every neutral to enjoy.