Real Madrid 3-1 Barcelona: Match Review
Real Madrid’s biggest test of the season came on Sunday night in the form of El Clasico and presented them with a terrific chance to go three points clear of their arch-rivals on the night. The game took place at Santiago Bernabeu, and it is safe to say that Los Blancos had a slight edge heading into the game.
Carlo Ancelotti placed Andriy Lunin in goal with the pairing of Eder Militao and David Alaba guarding the goal in central defence. Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal played at left and right-back, respectively.
Luka Modric and Toni Kroos started in the Clasico alongside Aurelien Tchouameni, who received his debut in football’s biggest game. Karim Benzema, Vinicius Jr and Federico Valverde completed the starting lineup.
The opening minutes saw the visitors dominate the possession while Ancelotti’s men sat comfortably holding for the counterattack. Their effort on the break repeatedly threw off Barcelona’s defence, and it was the same pattern that saw Los Blancos break the deadlock.
In the 12th minute, Toni Kroos showed his class by keeping his cool under pressure and playing wonderful through ball to Vinicius Jr. The youngster made a great run towards the goal, but ter Stegen saved his shot. Almost instinctively, Benzema was at the right place at the right time to pick up the spilt ball and drill it into the back of the net.
Soon after Los Blancos had their opener, Xavi’s men began their waves of rampant attacks and had great chances through Lewandowski and Dembele.
However, the European champions kept their defensive discipline and soaked in the pressure, only to double the Blaugranas plight at the other end.
Real Madrid scored their second goal on the night on the counter once again. It came completely against the run of play in the 35th minute when Mendy found Valverde at the edge of the box. Paying no attention to his distance from goal, the Uruguayan released a ferocious shot past Ter Stegen.
Ancelotti was the happier of the two managers heading into half-time as his team comfortably led by two goals with 45 minutes to go.
It seemed like Benzema scored the team’s third goal in the 1st minute with a perfectly placed shot from a distance, but it was ruled out for offside.
From the beginning of the second half, it was the Madrid-based side who dominated the attacking play and created better chances while the visitors struggled and stretched in defence. Ancelotti opted to replace Modric with Eduardo Camavinga in the 78th minute.
Barcelona pulled one back with eight minutes to go through Ferran Torres. The move began with Ansu Fati dribbling down the left side and sending in a low cross before his compatriot found the back of the net.
Immediately after the goal, Rodrygo came on for Vinicius Jr, followed by Marco Asensio and Antonio Rudiger for Benzema and Carvajal just minutes later.
Real Madrid won a penalty in the 90th minute after VAR interfered and awarded the hosts the chance. The incident involved Eric stepping on Rodrygo’s foot in the box, and the youngster made no mistake in front of the goal.
The win at home takes Madrid three points clear of the Azulgranas and in pole position on the league standings. Needless to say, the result could well be one that determines the championship at the end of the season.
Goals, energy, leadership: Three things Bellingham can offer to Real Madrid
Real Madrid have been notoriously heavy spenders in the summer transfer market in the past but have not spent an awful lot over the last few seasons due to financial restrictions and their team finding its peak at the right time.
Real Madrid did shell out close to €100 million for Aurelien Tchouameni last year, and got Eduardo Camavinga in the summer of 2021 for around €400 million, too.
It does seem like they have a huge summer planned ahead of them, though. The club plans to splash some cash on multiple positions, including centre-forward, right-wing, central midfield, and across the defence.
Some targets are laid out for these positions, with Kylian Mbappe naturally being on the list.
However, one definite target for Madrid that’s been well-established already is Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham. His price tag is set at around €100-140 million, and Los Blancos are among the teams leading the race for his signature, alongside Manchester City and Liverpool.
The Englishman has an obviously high ceiling and is already among the best players in his position in Europe. Moreover, he adds depth across various skillsets and attributes that Real Madrid currently lack or will lack as the clock marches on.
Madrid Universal explores three different things Bellingham can bring to the table for an already talented Galacticos side.
Goals from midfield
Despite not playing an advanced role, Bellingham is a rather experienced poacher in the box. This comes with his thorough understanding of offensive routines, and timing his runs to perfection in the box.
Being 6’1″ and physically gifted, the teenager can attack crosses and passes into the box with ease. He boasts of a rather impressive leap as well, which was more than visible during the World Cup, when he opened the scoring against Iran.
Goal – JUDE BELLINGHAM— masih miness (@WorldCup__id) November 21, 2022
England 1-0 Iran (34 mins) pic.twitter.com/CkCxl45mU1
The English midfielder has scored four goals in the league for Dortmund, and has accumulated an xG of 5.25 across the season. That is nearly two more than Madrid’s highest scoring midfielder – Luka Modric.
Currently, Madrid’s goals are rather lopsidedly dependent on the forward line, with Toni Kroos and Modric just chipping in with a combined six goals in the league out of a possible 51.
While both players, and Camavinga, are adept at shooting from range, neither quite provide the box threat or the third-man runs Madrid are currently craving for.
Once Karim Benzema or Vinicius Jr are boxed out of the game, Carlo Ancelotti’s side struggle with ideas, and are often stuck in a pattern of crossing and hoping for the best.
And even with that, Bellingham could prove to be an excellent solution to their problems, coming up with late runs into the box and attacking crosses and loose balls.
Far too many times this season, Ancelotti has been criticised for using Modric and Kroos in the same midfield. Especially when their bench holds the likes of Camavinga, Dani Ceballos, and sometimes even Federico Valverde.
However, it is clear that these players have been delegated to certain roles in midfield. Camavinga and Tchouameni shuffle as pivot options, while Ceballos is called upon add more creativity in the centre of the park.
Bellingham, while far from the best ball retainer, certainly has energy and lungs for days. He can run from box to box, receive and turn in a crowded midfield, and chase the ball till the 90.
While they have Valverde in a similar mould, the Uruguayan has been tasked with running the right-wing more often than not, at least under Ancelotti. It will be interesting to see how another coach would utilise both players to their respective strengths should the transfer go through.
Long-term captaincy candidate
At 19, Bellingham has already shown signs of becoming a captain for any side he plays for, for years to come. He has donned the armband for Dortmund several times this season already, and was first awarded with it in October, becoming the youngest captain in Bundesliga history.
Currently, he holds the position of third captain for Dortmund, behind Marco Reus and Mats Hummels, but has already held the armband multiple times, including twice in the UEFA Champions League.
While Madrid have a fair few leaders in their ranks, including and not limited to the likes of Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and David Alaba, Bellingham has clearly proved that he is not only capable of taking on a leadership role, but also spearheading any side for years to come.
If all works out, the price tag of €120+ million will soon start to pale in comparison to the attributes he brings to the table alongside his unbelievably high ceiling and longevity.