Real Madrid fell to a humiliating 3-0 defeat to Barcelona at the AT&T Stadium on Saturday night in their third preseason game of the season.
The scoreboard, however, is kind on the Blaugranas, for the game was equally balanced for large parts.
There are several positives for Carlo Ancelotti to take away from the display including the chances created and the midfield dominance.
His side hit the woodwork five times and would have won the game on any other day.
Yet, every defeat demands a deep retrospection. Here are three things the manager got wrong in the Clasico that ultimately led to the unexpected defeat.
1. Vinicius Jr and his niche
Vinicius Jr is one of Real Madrid’s biggest success stories in recent years.
The Brazilian protege has established himself as one of the world’s best wingers, but talent does not translate to versatility.
The youngster has shone in Los Blancos’ 4-3-3 setup in recent times.
However, Carlo Ancelotti’s decision to shift to a 4-4-2 setup demands changes in the forward line that may not suit Vinicius’ style. Saturday’s game was the best example.
The Selecao star looked relatively lost playing in a forward two alongside Rodrygo.
While he was far from poor in the position, he was not remotely close to his best.
Everything changed when the manager called on Joselu to change the formation.
With Bellingham taken off and a central striker to supply, Vinicius opened his wings in the final 15 minutes.
Back on the flank, he confidently completed take-ons and generated regular threats.
If Ancelotti is to take away one point from the defeat to Barcelona, it should thus be the need to play the Brazilian in his niche.
2. Underestimating the value of a striker
Carlo Ancelotti’s setup against Barcelona featured Jude Bellingham in the role of a false-nine behind the duo of Vini Jr and Rodrygo Goes.
Playing Bellingham in the tricky role came with sufficient upside, and the youngster regularly connected with the forwards to generate threat.
However, there was nobody in the box to effectively put the chances away.
Ancelotti revealed after the win over AC Milan that he saw Rodrygo as a central striker for the upcoming campaign given the lack of resources.
However, that plan will likely not come to fruition considering the Brazilian’s profile.
The void left by Karim Benzema’s departure is real, and the club cannot hope to fill it by simply altering the system.
It will thus be critical for Ancelotti to find ways to incorporate Joselu into his starting lineup.
3. A defensive lapse
The Merengues did not do much wrong on the night, and in fact, dominated the chances against Barcelona.
However, it was clear from the get-go that Eder Militao was having one of his more shaky performances.
The youngster ran into unnecessary and poorly timed challenges early in the game. David Alaba’s rusty positioning did not help the team’s cause either.
It would thus have been wise for the manager to turn to one of Antonio Rudiger or Nacho Fernandez in the second period to seal the gaps in the defence.
After all, Real Madrid were going all out in attack, and it was crucial to not concede a second goal.
Ancelotti’s decision to persist with the same centre-backs for the entire game played into Barcelona’s hands.
Two quick goals late in the game killed any hopes of a comeback for the Galacticos and gifted the Blaugranas the win.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Las Palmas | La Liga
The heartbreak at Civitas Metropolitano saw Real Madrid drop down to third on the La Liga standings for the first time this season. They now sit on 15 points from six games, only one point behind leaders Barcelona.
Yet, there is barely time for the team to recover. Less than 72 hours after their defeat, the Merengues play host to Las Palmas in the seventh Matchday of La Liga in a tricky fixture.
Garcia Pimienta’s side have improved leaps and bounds in recent times, although their start to the new season has been far from positive.
Las Palmas were winless in their first five league games but picked up a first win in their most recent outing against Granada.
With the visitors coming off their first win and the hosts their first loss, it will be interesting to see how the game of momentum plays out.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Wednesday’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu.
The important reaction
Having secured six wins in six games under their belt, the threat of breaking the moment was always lurking around the corner from Real Madrid. After all, their wins to that point were not always convincing.
Jude Bellingham’s magic, Joselu’s constant threat and the talented midfield helped Los Blancos on their way to scrappy wins over the weeks. Yet, it was always glaringly clear that they had deficiencies in defence and the final third.
All of Real Madrid’s troubles came to the forefront on Sunday and were left glaringly exposed. The end result was a defeat that left a bitter taste in the mouths of players and fans.
Despite facing their first setback of the season, however, the men in white have no time to lament. After all, the hectic schedule leaves them little time between games.
It is thus of utmost importance that Real Madrid does not slip into a vicious state of negative momentum. As they face off against Las Palmas midweek, Carlo Ancelotti’s side needs a strong and dominant win to keep spirits high.
Considering that they will be back at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid will be the favourites by far on the night. Nevertheless, there will be pressure on the players to take all three points.
Limelight on the manager
The aftermath of the defeat to Atletico Madrid sent ripples through the Spanish media. It was reported that the Real Madrid board was not entirely happy with the list of ‘sins’ committed by Ancelotti in the clash at Civitas Metropolitano.
It thus goes without saying that the limelight will be on the manager on Wednesday.
For starters, the Italian gaffer must get the starting lineup right and not go overboard with his rotations. Aurelien Tchouameni is a must for the Merengues’ defensive efforts and must be introduced back into the lineup midweek.
Moreover, there will be pressure on him to revert to the winning 4-4-2 diamond formation featuring two natural forwards including a striker.
With Joselu returning to the lineup, Jude Bellingham must shift back to his more comfortable attacking midfield role.
Moreover, the manager must strike the right balance between youth and experience, for both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric can no longer start together.
Perhaps the most important job Ancelotti is faced with, however, is in defence. Both David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger appeared lost in the last game, and it remains to be seen if the manager ropes Nacho Fernandez in to strike a better dynamic.
Return of the magician
While Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao are amongst Real Madrid’s most valuable players, it is Vinicius Jr’s injury that hit the club the hardest.
The Merengues unfortunately have a very thin and fragile forward line this season with just three players competing for two spots. Of the three names, Vinicius is the single most important one.
The Brazilian star may not have started the 2023-24 season at his optimal level considering his altered role in the new formation. Yet, he is the Merengues’ most lethal weapon to break open defences and create chances.
The men in white have had problems since the Selecao star hobbled off the field injured against Celta Vigo.
Their games against Getafe and Union Berlin were both down to last-gasp winners, while the defeat to Atletico Madrid showed everything wrong with the team.
Vinicius Jr is set to make his return in tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu, and there could be no better news for Ancelotti.