Real Madrid boasts of one of world football’s best young cores. If there is one club that can challenge the Merengues’ crown, however, it is their arch-rivals Barcelona.
The two Spanish giants faced each other in a preseason El Clasico on Saturday night and treated fans across the globe to a glorious game of football.
Barcelona opened the scoring through Ousmane Dembele early in the first half and held the lead even until half-time.
Real Madrid pushed for an equaliser through the second half, but a combination of Barça’s resilient defence and the Merengues’ sloppy attack denied them the same.
In the end, Fermin Lopez and Ferran Torres put the finishing touches for the Blaugrana win.
Madrid Universal brings you the player ratings of Real Madrid players on the night.
Thibaut Courtois: 7
The Belgian shot-stopper did not feature in Real Madrid’s first two preseason games through injury but made his first start against Barcelona.
Could have made a better effort to deny Ousmane Dembele’s opener from a tight angle but made amends with a spectacular block late in the half.
Completed the game with four saves in his bag.
Daniel Carvajal: 7
The veteran right-back was on the money in his defensive role, making three vital defensive contributions in the first half.
His distribution was impeccable as always, but he struggled to cope with Alejandro Balde’s pace at times in the game.
Eder Militao: 6.5
Militao was one of the players in the team who endured a more forgettable first 45 minutes.
The Brazilian defender entered a couple of reckless challenges, found himself regularly wring footed and appeared a little rusty compared to his counterparts.
Made amends in the second half and returned within clearer headspace until everything collapsed in the dying minutes.
David Alaba: 6.5
The veteran defender got the start ahead of Antonio Rudiger and was the more responsible and calm centre-back on the night. With a 93% passing accuracy and seven long balls completed out of nine attempts, he made a strong statement with his display.
He was completely beaten for the two late goals and should have done better to deny Torres Barcelona’s third.
Ferland Mendy: 6
Ferland Mendy has been regularly criticised for his lack of attacking contributions at Real Madrid.
Against Barcelona on Sunday night, he recorded a staggering four key passes in 45 minutes and completed 100% of the duels, long balls, dribbles and crosses he attempted.
However, he hobbled off the field injured at halftime.
Federico Valverde: 6.5
The Uruguayan was one of the fundamental cogs in Real Madrid’s high press off the ball and also featured as a prominent channel connecting midfield to attack.
Aurelien Tchouameni: 8
The French pivot continued his run of good form as he pushes to win back a regular place in Carlo Ancelotti’s plans.
He recorded seven defensive actions, a key pass and two successful dribbles in the opening period.
Came very close to equalising at the hour mark with a bullet of a strike.
Eduardo Camavinga: 7.5
The youngster once again showed to have everything asked of him by the manager in his arsenal.
Camavinga was a free spirit in Real Madrid’s midfield, disrupting Barcelona’s passing channels and initiating waves of attack for Los Blancos.
Came off for Modric just before the hour mark.
Jude Bellingham: 7
Playing in his first-ever El Clasico, Bellingham featured in the number 10 role behind Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo Goes.
The English prodigy had his moments of magic as he missed one big chance by hitting the woodwork, yet was less involved than he would have liked.
Vinicius Jr: 6.5
The Brazilian star missed the team’s biggest chance to equalise the score in the first half as his penalty struck the woodwork.
He went on to test the sticks once more in the opening period and struggled to have the usual influence he boasts in Clasicos.
The youngster had multiple on the break including a massive chance in the 83rd minute. However, he was largely unable to capitalise on any of his opportunities.
Rodrygo played a more central role, almost akin to that of a striker.
However, he was not restricted to the central strip of the field and regularly dropped back to orchestrate the build-up play.
Fran Garcia: 6
The new signing replaced Mendy at half-time and was flawless in his distribution. However, the Spaniard was relatively underwhelming with his contributions in the final third and did not provide the team with sufficient width.
Toni Kroos: 6.5
The veteran entered the field of play just before the hour and immediately changed the colour of the game.
With the German midfielder in the mix, Real Madrid began switching play with ease and stretched the Catalans defence.
Luka Modric: 7
The Croatian international was simply magical after coming on.
His silky passes threaded through the Blaugrana defence on numerous occasions including a spectacular pass to Rodrygo in the 78th minute.
He may not have been perfect, but Modric was the X factor the team lacked.
The striker replaced Bellingham in the 73rd minute as Ancelotti changed the system looking for an equaliser. Did not impact the game in any serious way.
Brahim Diaz: NA
Came on too late to make a tangible impact.
Three talking points from Real Madrid 1-0 Union Berlin
Real Madrid kicked off their UEFA Champions League campaign on Wednesday night with a narrow 1-0 win over Union Berlin.
The victory was deserved from the point of view of domination of play. Real Madrid were the only team attacking for large parts of the night and created chances to no end.
Yet, one must tip the hat to the visitors’ resilient defence. Playing the first UEFA Champions League clash in the club’s history is difficult enough, let alone at the Santiago Bernabeu. Union Berlin did so and with some style.
Until the 93rd minute, a draw appeared to be the most probable result. The visitors refused to cave into Real Madrid’s relentless attacks and poured their hearts out on the field.
In the end, however, Carlo Ancelotti’s men did what they do best. A last-minute winner from Jude Bellingham gave the hosts all three points.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid 1-0 Union Berlin.
The power of Real Madrid
Real Madrid are one of the few teams in the world that can never be written off. Such is the ability of the team, more so under Carlo Ancelotti, that they can pull off a win even after a howler.
Their unfair advantage, in part, owes itself to the ridiculous individual quality they possess on the field. Any player is capable of turning the game around with a moment of magic.
Yet, the most important factor that works in their favour is the mental resilience in the squad. Real Madrid never believe it is over until it really is, and Wednesday night’s game provided further reassurance as to why they are the mentality monsters.
For 90 minutes, the visitors frustrated Real Madrid to the limit. They stuck to their defensive lines with discipline and did not give Los Blancos much to work with.
Yet, Real Madrid’s perseverance was visible through the ordeal. The intensity of their attacks amplified with every passing minute and showed no signs of tapering down.
Poetically, they found the winning goal in the final minute of added time when all doors seemed closed, with Jude Bellingham being the hero yet again.
Forwards need to step up
The men in white had 75% of the possession on Wednesday night at Santiago Bernabeu and kept making the required penetrative attacks.
In 90 minutes, the hosts racked up an xG tally of 3.80. Yet, shockingly, they were goalless even in the penultimate minute of the game.
Real Madrid took 32 shots against Union Berlin as opposed to the opposition’s four. Seven shots were on target while 10 were blocked.
In terms of big chances, the me in white churned up five in the 90 minutes of which they missed four. They also struck the woodwork twice last night.
The team’s struggles in the final third place the spotlight on Rodrygo Goes and Joselu, who were the team’s two forwards at Santiago Bernabeu. Both players suffered disappointing nights in front of goal and just could not catch a break from their poor luck.
The Spaniard had three shots on target, five off it, and three attempts blocked against Union Berlin. All of it, however, was in vain.
The Brazilian was not much better with three shots and one blocked chance. Nevertheless, their poor results were not for a lack of trying if that is any silver lining.
Far from convincing
Real Madrid’s mentality and fortitude to push for a win is indeed a reason to be optimistic. However, that does not hide the fact that the men in white struggled and toiled on to no end.
The Champions League has no minnows, but one would expect Real Madrid to show their dominance at some point in the game and close the deal. However, that spell of play never arrived.
Los Blancos may be on a six-game winning streak so far this season, but there is reason to believe that a factor of luck has been essential for most of their scalps.
All eyes will thus be on Ancelotti now. The manager has a world-class roster at his disposal, and it will now be up to him to enhance Real Madrid’s performance in the final third. After all, putting away chances is as important as creating them.