Saturday’s El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona lived up to every ounce of hype showered on it. With 22 of the world’s best players on the field in a gargantuan tussle, the quality of the game was never in question.
Barcelona began the game on the front foot, controlling and dictating the play through the first period. They even took the early lead on the day through Ilkay Gundogan, piling the pressure on Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
Real Madrid, however, walked out of the dressing room with renewed determination in the second period. After 15 minutes of relentless pressing and attacking intent, they equalised through Jude Bellingham and set up for an exciting finish.
In the end, Real Madrid’s English sensation struck another goal in stoppage time to give his side all three points. An absolute thriller.
Madrid Universal brings you the player ratings from the season’s first Clasico.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 6
The Spaniard showed slight nerves in his first Clasico with some questionable distribution throughout the game. Could not do much about Barcelona’s opener, but could have been better with his long balls. Made a big save to deny Araujo in the second half.
Daniel Carvajal: 8
Easily Real Madrid’s best defender on the day, Carvajal was the only one who looked reassuring with his moves. He struggled to contain Alejandro Balde and Joao Felix at times but made crucial interceptions to deny Joao Felix and Fermin Lopez in the first half.
Moreover, he was the only player providing width down Real Madrid’s right flank and did so to good effect.
Antonio Rudiger: 7.5
Solid, reassuring, and alert in defence, Rudiger held Real Madrid’s fortress single-handedly at times. Yet, he holds part of the blame for the first goal conceded.
David Alaba: 6
The Austrian international was far from his best at Montjuic. His weak interception fed the ball to Ilkay Gundogan’s feet for Barcelona’s opener, but that was not the only time he was defensively exposed in the game.
Ferland Mendy: 6
While Mendy was decent with his distribution, he did not contribute much to Los Blancos buildup or press against Barcelona. Virtually absent in attack, thereby reducing the width of Real Madrid’s play in the final third. Came off early in the second half.
Aurelien Tchouameni: 7
Was unfortunate for his touch to end up as the reason behind Barcelona’s opener, but the Frenchman was amongst those who failed to track back.
Apart from the blatant error, Tchouameni was decent in defence and came close to scoring with a belter of a shot from distance.
Federico Valverde: 7.5
The Uruguayan was at the heart of every Real Madrid counter and worked like a machine down the right flank. Combined well with Carvajal to create danger on the flank and effectively switched the play to catch the hosts off guard.
Toni Kroos: 8
The German maestro was on song but put under serious pressure by Barcelona’s midfield numbers. Yet, the midfielder was the one orchestrating the visitors’ play and looking towards the goal with the long shot.
Completed the game with two key passes and one shot blocked as he made his way off the field at the hour mark.
Jude Bellingham: 10
Was quiet for the better part of his first Clasico, tightly marked by Barcelona’s Gavi. With no balls being played through the lines, he was forced to drop deeper and collect the ball.
He stepped up, and in grand style in the 68th minute. Fired a sensational strike to beat Ter Stegen and equalise the score.
Was once again on the money in the penultimate minute as he scored a fine goal to gift his side the win. What a signing.
Vinicius Jr: 6.5
The Brazilian was frustrated by Ronald Araujo in the first half, for the Uruguayan barely allowed him to breathe in El Clasico. He was constantly marked and struggled to wriggle away.
Rodrygo Goes: 6.5
The Brazilian was one of the lone attackers for Real Madrid for long tracts in the game, especially considering how Los Blancos spent spells chasing after the ball. Created some threat with his off-the-ball runs but was largely neutralised by Barcelona’s centre-halves.
Created a more tangible threat in the second half but was taken off early for Joselu.
Eduardo Camavinga: 7
Came on to replace Mendy as the left-back, presumably to add punch to Real Madrid’s attack. Did so with perfection, for Los Blancos’ attacking prowess almost instantly improved after his introduction.
Replaced Rodrygo at the hour mark but did not create much of a presence in Barcelona’s box.
Luka Modric: 7.5
Modric came on and stole the show. The Croatian ran the show in midfield for the final 20 minutes as his balls over the top constantly menaced the Blaugranas.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli | UEFA Champions League
Fresh off their 3-0 win against Cadiz at the weekend, Real Madrid return to the field late on Wednesday night to take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A lot has changed since the two teams last met. Napoli sacked Rudi Garcia not so long ago and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new manager. The Italian got off to a great start in the form of a 2-1 win over Atalanta in his first game in the position.
Yet, he will face his first big test in the form of Real Madrid later tomorrow. The Naples-based side will have a lot to prove to their manager and the fans on the night, but it is clear that the Merengues will not treat the fixture lightly either.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli.
The headlining clash
The UEFA Champions League leaves fans spoilt for choice, for it offers the highest quality of football between some of the world’s best teams on a regular basis. The headlining fixtures begin as early as the group stages and only grow in promise as the season progresses.
When Real Madrid were drawn into Group C in this year’s UCL, all eyes were on the team that would take the next highest-seeded spot. It was eventually Napoli that made the cut, making the Spanish-Italian clash the group’s most-awaited game.
Since then, the two teams have already faced off once at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Matchday two of the competition. The clash was evenly balanced for the most part, but Jude Bellingham’s masterclass enabled a narrow 3-2 Real Madrid win.
Close to two months on, the two European giants face off once more, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot help but call the upcoming clash the title clash of the matchday, especially considering the two team’s recent history and what rides on the result.
Real Madrid’s place in the Round of 16 was confirmed after their win over SC Braga in the last matchday. Napoli, however, are yet to secure such confirmation and a defeat tomorrow could potentially reduce their gap over Braga to one point.
Napoli thus need the win to maintain security over their qualification, while Real Madrid hope to cement their place as group leaders with a win. With both teams having a lot riding on the result, the game will have no dearth of life on the night.
Carlo Ancelotti spent many a day in the recent international break plotting means to overcome his midfield crisis. After all, he was without the services of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga had also suffered a gruesome injury on national team duty.
The manager thus deployed his best midfield quartet for the clash against Cadiz, hoping to improve the harmony between the four stars. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham all started but the situation got ugly after the 38-year-old walked off injured in the second half.
Ancelotti thus now faces a bottleneck in midfield. Modric has been excluded from the squad after his latest injury, leaving the manager with just four options from the first-team in midfield. Needless to say, all four players are expected to start in Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond formation on the night.
Bellingham will be deployed as the attacking midfielder while Kroos is likely to play as the pivot. The two interiors will be Dani Ceballos and Valverde, the former of whom has not started a single game all season.
The situation in midfield is thus grim, for the manager can not afford any further injuries in the department.
The man in form
The beginning of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 campaign was all about Jude Bellingham. The Englishman could not stop scoring goals for fun across all competitions and single-handedly won games even in situations where all hope seemed lost.
Rodrygo has stolen the limelight from the English protege in recent weeks, and his resurgence could not come at a better time for Ancelotti. After all, the Brazilian was enduring one of his worst-ever starts to a season but managed to find his footing exactly after Bellingham suffered the blow to his shoulder.
The 22-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in Real Madrid’s recent games. His purple patch began against Braga when he scored once and assisted once to give Los Blancos three critical points.
In the team’s subsequent clash against Valencia, Rodrygo stole the show. In 90 minutes against Los Che, the youngster scored two goals and provided as many assists in the team’s 5-1 win. He added another two goals and an assist to his tally in Real Madrid’s most recent clash against Cadiz.
Needless to say, the spotlight will shine brightly on Rodrygo in tomorrow’s game. As the team’s most in-form player, the onus will be on him to find the required breakthroughs on the night and lead the attack from the front in Vinicius Jr.’s absence.