Any Given Thursday

by Rich Shen and Austin Lim | 10/22/14 4:47pm

When we woke up Wednesday, my boy Rich and I had no idea we’d have to write another column.

Around 5 p.m. I got a blitz from Fish reminding me of the deadline. You would think any fool would know that a “column” titled “Any Given Thursday” would be published on Thursday, but, alas, hindsight is 20/20.

This marks the second edition of my column with Rich, though it’s quickly becoming just my column since he has literally not contributed to either one.

When Rich told me he couldn’t help write the column or even come up with a potential topic, I thought in my head, “Classic Rich.” Then, in a moment of simultaneous genius and stupidity, I declared “El Clasico!” For those of you who aren’t soccer fans, “El Clasico” is the name of the match between rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid C.F. In the famous, slightly altered words of one of the great characters of our childhood, I said, “Rich, I know what we’re going to do today.” (That’s a quote from “Phineas and Ferb” for you uncultured swines.)

Let’s talk about powerhouses in sports. The Yankees, Lakers and Celtics are obvious franchises that come to mind, but people rarely consider teams outside of the U.S. Across the pond, Barcelona and Real Madrid dominate the soccer scene. They have obscene amounts of money -— Forbes ranked them as the top two most valuable franchises in sports. Madrid is worth $3.44 billion and Barcelona is worth $3.2 billion. To put those numbers in perspective, the Yankees are worth $2.5 billion, and the Lakers are worth a measly $1.35 billion. The two have finished as the top two in La Liga (the top Spanish soccer league) eight out of 10 past years. They consistently procure the best players in the world (see: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo), and the rivalry between these teams is arguably the biggest in sports.

The first “Clasico” of the season is this Saturday, and I encourage those of you who can to watch. This year’s version has some fascinating story lines. Let’s begin with the transfer season these teams had. Both acquired superstars, with Madrid winning the battle for Colombia’s World Cup sensation James Rodriguez, and Barcelona signing arguably the best biter/striker in the world, Luis Suarez. Suarez was suspended for four months after an “incident” against Italy in the World Cup, when he bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. Guess when Suarez’s four-month ban ends? The first game that he can play in is Saturday. Suarez’s return adds more intrigue to the matchup, as it will be the first time we get to watch him play alongside Messi and Neymar, so long as he starts/doesn’t eat them.

Despite Suarez’s absence, Barcelona has more than held its own in La Liga so far. The team sits atop the table, with a record of seven wins and one tie, and has yet to concede a goal, while averaging almost three a game. Madrid sits at six wins and two losses, and has scored an astonishing 30 goals, which is an average of almost four a game. These two teams are offensive powerhouses, which will hopefully lead to a high scoring and entertaining game.

So who is going to win? Tough to say. Madrid has won 70 head-to-head matchups with Barcelona in La Liga while Barcelona has taken 66. The two teams are historically evenly matched, but this year I have to give the edge to Barcelona. The team has found a new defensive scheme, with a new goalkeeper who is playing fantastic fútbol. Barcelona has three of the best attacking players in the world who should complement each other well. While Madrid’s star forward Cristiano Ronaldo is a force to be reckoned with, I would be surprised to see the rest of Madrid’s attack muster enough offensive oomph to take down Barcelona. If Barcelona starts Suarez, they should cruise to a win. Having said that, the game should be fascinating.

This concludes another chapter of “Any Given Thursday.” Thanks for reading, and we hope you’ll come back for more next week when hopefully Rich will chime in.