The first El Clasico of the season has enthralled us just like we all expected it to and it is the defending Champions who have grabbed the bragging rights as the night ends 3-1 in their favour.
Real Madrid came into this game trying to add insult to injury on Barcelona’s disastrous Champions League campaign and regain their spot as the league leaders from the Catalan club.
Carlo Ancelotti lined up as expected against Xavi Hernandez’s men with Thibaut Courtois a big miss for the Madrid club. Andriy Lunin took his place in between the sticks in what was his Clasico debut.
The only other question mark in the lineup was whether Antonio Rudiger would be ready to start and Ancelotti chose not to risk the German defender and went with David Alaba and Eder Militao at the back.
The first half belonged to the La Liga Champions who turned it on in style at home. Ancelotti’s men went into the break leading 2-0. Apart from a couple of chances, Barcelona had nothing to offer in an attacking sense and Lunin remained largely untested.
As Los Blancos almost always do in the big games, Federico Valverde was preferred to Rodrygo on the right wing and the Uruguayan certainly did not disappoint, ending the game with a goal against his name.
Barcelona did show a little bit more fight and intent in the second half but the visitors were unable to penetrate Real Madrid’s sturdy defence. The visitors did pull back one late goal but Rodrygo’s penalty put the game to bed.
Andriy Lunin: 8
Had quite a few nervy moments in possession early on. The Ukrainian would have thanked his stars when Lewandowski uncharacteristically missed an open goal after a low cross from Raphinha.
Made a good save to stop Frenkie from scoring in the first half. A decent showing from the Real Madrid backup keeper who wouldn’t have been expecting such an easy match. Could not do much about Ferran’s goal, which was a moment of brilliance from Fati.
Daniel Carvajal: 7
Keeping Ousmane Dembele in check is not an easy task for any full-back in the world, but Carvajal did a fairly good job at it. Solid defensively, the Spaniard was a constant out ball on the right with Fede Valverde moving inside at every possible opportunity.
Had a couple of nervy moments in the second half with Fati and Alba causing him trouble and Ancelotti chose to take him off for the defensively solid Rudiger in the 87th minute.
Eder Militao: 9
Excellent in the air, winning a number of duels aerially against Lewandowski. Solid in possession, Militao had a great defensive showing and snuffed out every Barcelona attack that was thrown at him.
Absolutely bossed the Polish superstar who had to resort to theatrics to try and win a foul. Could not do much about a low cross into the box that Lewandowski backheeled into Ferran’s path.
David Alaba: 8
Fielded at centre-back today, the Austrian was his usual self, commanding the back line and extremely calm in possession.
Showed incredible awareness by stepping up at the right time to play Lewandowski offside on a couple of occasions in the first half. Equally solid in the second half as well and looked largely untroubled.
Ferland Mendy: 8
A solid first-half display from the Frenchman constantly overlapping Vini Jr and providing an option on the left. An assist against his name as he set Fede Valverde up for the second goal. Nothing spectacular from Mendy in the second half, but kept Dembele in check.
Aurelian Tchouameni: 7
Nothing spectacular from the Frenchman who just went about his business calmly. Yet another solid showing at the base of midfield from Tchouameni who is making sure that Real Madrid aren’t missing Casemiro this season.
Conceded a free-kick in a dangerous area by fouling Dembele but nothing came off it. Lost the ball in possession that allowed Fati to get a shot on goal that went just wide off the post. Solid nevertheless.
Luka Modric: 7
An ageless first-half display from the Croatian veteran who was excellent with his decision making in the first half.
Had a few sloppy moments in possession early in the second half but quickly regained his composure. Got booked for a silly foul on Pedri midway through the second half. Taken off for Camavinga in the 78th minute.
Toni Kroos: 9
Excellent strength and awareness by the German under pressure from Busquets to find Vini Jr. in the leadup to the first goal of the game. Solid in possession, as usual, keeping the ball ticking and spraying passes to those in front of him. A vintage performance from the German.
Federico Valverde: 9
Started in his auxiliary right-wing role but moved infield at every possible opportunity. Was at his energetic best, throwing himself around into tackles and making bursting runs forward.
Came up with a peach of a strike for Real Madrid’s second goal. Made a bursting run before passing the ball on to Rodrygo, who won the penalty late on.
Karim Benzema: 8
The goal drought is over for the French superstar, just one night before arguably the biggest day of his footballing career. Had another goal in the second half that was ruled out due to an offside. Worked tirelessly defensively and surely looked back to his very best. Was taken off for Marco Asensio late on
Vinicius Jr: 8
Would have been smacking his lips at the prospect of running at Barcelona right-back Sergi Roberto tonight. The Brazilian wrecked havoc right from the first minute and the rebound from his blocked shot was slotted home by Benzema for the first goal.
Played a crucial role in the second goal as well, with an excellent run before releasing the ball for Ferland Mendy to tee up Fede Valverde. Taken off for Rodrygo in the 84th minute.
Eduardo Camavinga: N/A
Came on for Luka Modric in the 78th minute. Did not make much of an impact.
Came on in the 84th minute and won a penalty for his side that he eventually slotted home.
Antonio Rudiger: N/A
Came on too late to make an impact.
Marco Asensio: N/A
Came on too late to make an impact
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia
For all the institutional and sporting catastrophes Valencia suffer from, they put up a resilient show against Real Madrid last month and held them to a draw in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.
Having fired Gennaro Gattuso less than 48 hours ago, Los Che will be under the command of an interim coach at Santiago Bernabeu in the hope of repeating their feat from Saudi Arabia.
After all, they are struggling this season with just 20 points in 18 league appearances.
Valencia may not be the top team it used to be a couple of seasons ago, but there is a fighting spirit to the squad that makes them special.
As Real Madrid looks to make amends for their dropped points against La Real, some important considerations cross the manager’s mind regarding the clash against Los Che.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.
1. More names at Ancelotti’s disposal
Real Madrid’s long injury list has been a thorn in Carlo Ancelotti’s feet for a long time now. While the manager has had close to five players unavailable through fitness concerns, two names were considered irreplaceable.
Daniel Carvajal is the first on that list. The Spanish International’s presence gave the club hope after Lucas Vazquez’s injury last month, but almost as if planned, the 30-year-old immediately suffered a blow in training and was forced to sit out.
For four games, Ancelotti was thus forced to field Nacho Fernandez as his right-back. The centre-back did a good job at covering out of position, however, will be pushed back to the bench on Thursday as Los Blancos celebrate the return of Carvajal.
The defender is not the only one making his way back, as Aurelien Tchouameni also received the medical all-clear earlier this week.
The French pivot hobbled off an hour into Real Madrid’s league clash against Villarreal in the first week of January and has been sidelined for close to a month.
His absence pushed his coach to try numerous permutations in midfield, but it was finally Eduardo Camavinga who stamped his authority on the position.
With Tchouameni back roaring, his place in the starting lineup seems to be written in stone. One can expect the Frenchman to be deployed alongside Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos for his return to action on Thursday.
2. Concern shifts from right to left-back
The Merengues will finally have a natural right-back available to play against Valencia midweek. However, that does not signal the end of the Italian tactician’s trouble-riddles period.
Just when one full-back position returned to a state of normalcy, Real Madrid now have a crisis at left-back.
Ferland Mendy picked up a thigh injury earlier this week and will miss the team’s next two months of action at least. To say that this is a big blow to the club’s plans would be an understatement, for Mendy was the only natural left-back available in the squad.
David Alaba would appear to be the best-placed alternative, but the Austrian is ruled out through injury himself. Placed at a lack of options, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference earlier today that Eduardo Camavinga would play there against Valencia.
The youngster has played in the defensive position earlier but will face the heat going up against Jose Luis Gaya at Santiago Bernabeu.
Given that Valencia’s right flank put up a memorable display when the two teams met last month, one can be certain that Camavinga’s performance can make or break Real Madrid’s night.
3. No margin for error
Less than halfway through the league season, Los Blancos already find themselves five points behind Barcelona. The wide gap is not a consequence of the defending champions’ poor form but the sheer consistency of Xavi Hernandez’s men, who cannot stop winning.
Having won the Supercopa de Espana last month, the Catalans are currently riding high on confidence. With their season heading from strength to strength, Real Madrid must hold on and wait for the right opportunity to topple the tables.
The Galacticos‘ draw against Real Sociedad added two points to the gap between the top two sides last week. At this stage, Ancelotti’s men cannot afford any further slip-ups for a larger gap would be too much for the men in white to compensate.
Every game henceforth will be a final for Real Madrid in La Liga. Three points are the bare minimum the club can walk away with from any fixture, and that mission will start from their game against Valencia.