Iniesta's Clasico cameo gives hope of brighter days for Barca

The World Cup winner was back from injury to improve his side's play in the second half and even though Real Madrid rescued a point, his return is a reason for optimism at Camp Nou


There was little to cheer in the end for Barcelona. Luis Enrique's side were within minutes of a vital victory at home to Real Madrid in the Clasico at Camp Nou and when Sergio Ramos headed home a late leveller, it will have felt more like a defeat to the Catalan club.

Ramos denies Barca victory in the Clasico

And while Madrid's players celebrated wildly, there was doom and gloom among the Barcelona boys. They knew a chance had been missed to claim an important three points and close in on their fierce rivals at the top of La Liga.

For the first 45 minutes of the match, Barcelona had not been themselves at all. That, in fact, is nothing new lately. In games against Malaga and Real Sociedad and away to Manchester City, the midfield has looked ordinary. And it did again here as Luka Modric ran the show for Real.

But for a period in the second half, Barcelona looked like Barcelona again. The long-awaited return of Andres Iniesta changed everything for Luis Enrique's side. After he came on for Ivan Rakitic with 59 minutes on the clock, Sergio Busquets left Isco in a daze with an outrageous piece of skill in midfield. It ushered in the start of a period of dominance. Suddenly, the supporters had their Barca back.

With Iniesta on the field, Busquets now had a partner in crime, a player with whom he could link up and associate. It brought his and Barca's best football of the match and also allowed Lionel Messi to move further forward. WIth Andres available, the Argentine no longer had to drop deep to create openings.

And later on, those two men combined wonderfully in a move that could and perhaps should have led to the decisive second goal for the Blaugrana. Already ahead through a Luis Suarez header when Iniesta came on, the midfielder produced a moment of vision and real class as he threaded through a lovely pass for the Argentine attacker. Messi, though, could only drag his shot wide with just Keylor Navas to beat.

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That was with eight minutes remaining and still Barca appeared comfortable. In the end, however, Sergio Ramos headed home from a Modric free-kick carelessly given away by Arda Turan.

"The indication was clear," Luis Enrique complained afterwards. "Don't give away any fouls." In this fixture last season, the introduction of Arda saw the game turn in Madrid's favour and it had happened again here. The Barca boss had not learned the lesson. 

There were question marks about the Asturian's selections, too. Javier Mascherano started instead of Samuel Umtiti, recently returned from injury, and the Argentine was nowhere near Ramos as the Madrid skipper scored in the 90th minute. Although lacking full fitness, the Frenchman may well have been a better option.

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Likewise Iniesta. Sidelined since injuring his knee on October 22, he has been badly missed by Barca and against Madrid, Andre Gomes started instead, the summer signing receiving his first jeers from frustrated fans. The Portuguese has shown glimpses of quality and has sound technique, but has failed to adapt to this team and his contribution is a million miles from Iniesta's influence. Even at 70 per cent, Andres could surely have offered more.

"It's obvious that Iniesta is a player who is different, a player who is world class," Luis Enrique said afterwards when asked about the midfielder. "He gave us clarity and vision. Also hard work. I am happy he is back."

And Barcelona fans will be too. Because even though it was not enough to win this Clasico or to close the six-point gap on Real Madrid at the top of La Liga, Iniesta's impressive return gives hope that better times lie ahead for the Blaugrana in the coming weeks and months.