The 3-1 scoreline of El Clasico may be unfair on Xavi’s Barcelona given their strong fightback and missed opportunities. Yet, ironically, one cannot say that Real Madrid did not deserve the dominant scoreline.
Football is a game of finishing chances. A chance created is worth nothing as long as it finds the back of the net, and that was again the moral learnt from Sunday’s clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Karim Benzema opened the scoring for his team before Fede Valverde doubled the lead before halftime. Ferran Torres pulled one back for the visitors at the death but Rodrygo’s calm penalty kick secured three points and bragging rights for Real Madrid.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from El Clasico.
1. An exhilarating first half
As the referee blew the whistle for half-time, it seemed like the result was already written in stone in the hosts’ favour. Real Madrid pulled off an exceptional display in the opening 45 minutes, and though they did not have control of the game, they created better chances and were clinical in front of the goal.
Los Blancos had half as many shots as their opponents in the opening half but still got one more shots on target. They took three shots from inside the box, forced two saves from the goalkeeper and missed one big chance in addition to the two goals they scored.
Though Barcelona dominated the opening minutes, the hosts pounced on the first real opportunity they got. Toni Kroos’ phenomenal pre-assist to Vinicius Jr launched a lethal counterattack that ultimately terminated in Benzema’s opener.
Just as it seemed like the Azulgranas were getting the upper hand, Real Madrid flipped on the defensive switch and delivered a masterclass in how not to concede. Further, Federico Valverde scored an emphatic goal from outside the box, against the run of play, to solidify his team’s lead.
The second half may not have been as rosy for the men in white, but an all-round display before half-time engineered their win on the night.
2. The midfield battle
Up against some of the best young midfielders in the world like Pedri, Gavi and Frenkie de Jong, one expected an even battle in the middle of the park. What unfolded during the game was quite the opposite.
The veteran midfielders of Real Madrid just oozed class on the night and schooled Barcelona’s young core a lesson in how to control the game.
Despite not being in possession for long periods, the game never seemed out of Los Blancos’ hands, and Luka Modric and Toni Kroos can claim the bragging rights for that.
The former completed 97% of his attempted passes and created one big chance against the Catalans, while the latter was the creator-in-chief of the team’s opener. Between them, the duo also recorded a whopping 24 defensive actions.
Further, one cannot forget the performance of Aurelien Tchouameni. Making his Clasico debut, the youngster did not seem to break a sweat and churned out another routine high-level display.
3. Benzema’s lesson to Lewandowski
Heading into the game, there seemed to be one question doing the rounds in media outlets across the globe – Lewandowski or Benzema.
Both strikers have seen the pinnacle of football at the club level and can claim a place in the list of the greatest strikers to have graced the game. Yet, when they faced off on Sunday night, there was only one winner.
The French international had only one official shot on target and that attempt resulted in the team’s opening goal.
When he took another shot from distance in the second half, that too hit the back of the net but was ruled out for offside. In addition, Benzema played a vital role in the buildup play for Loa Blancos, completing 46 touches and making a key pass.
On the other end of the field, the Pole had a relatively disastrous outing. Of his five shots, only two were on target, and none found its way past Lunin.
Lewy missed an open chance in the first half and seemed lost in front of the goal. With Eder Militao man-marking him for most of the encounter, the striker was completely neutralised and was isolated from the game.
The Ballon d’Or is set to be awarded in Paris tomorrow, and it will be Benzema who climbs up the podium to receive the award from Didier Drogba. His strong performance against Barcelona just a day before the ceremony seems like a story written in the stars.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Granada | La Liga
Napoli fought tooth and nail for all three points against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this week. They took the early lead in the first half, then fought back to find an equaliser after Real Madrid put two past them.
In the end, however, they were outdone by the hosts’ resilience and never-say-die attitude. The result thus registered Real Madrid’s fourth win on the trot and twelfth game without a defeat.
The men in white must now look ahead to their next La Liga game scheduled to kick off in just over 24 hours. Faced against Granada in a critical matchday, the aim will be to take all three points and thus maintain a healthy position in the standings.
Ancelotti announced some key recoveries in his pre-match press conference and also confirmed that Jude Bellingham would be fit to participate on the evening. Yet, he is concurrently in a difficult moment in terms of squad fitness.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Granada vs Real Madrid.
A clash of two poles
While Ancelotti’s Real Madrid sit lavishly on the top of La Liga’s standings, their opponents for Saturday afternoon have quite a contrasting fate. Granada sit on the other end of the league table and find themselves in a desolate situation 14 match days into the season.
Granada are currently 19th in La Liga with just one win in 14 games, and have changed managers, with Alexander Medina replacing Paco Lopez. They have lost a staggering nine games and walked away with one point on four occasions.
Granada have only scored 19 goals all season while conceding on 33 occasions. Comparing the numbers to Real Madrid’s 31 goals scored and nine goals conceded speaks volumes about the form of both teams heading into tomorrow’s clash.
The visitors’ last win in La Liga came back in August, and it is safe to say that a victory vs Real Madrid will do them a world of good. They will be the underdogs at the Bernabeu, but nothing is impossible considering that they drew with Barcelona not so long ago.
Saturday’s clash will thus be interesting, to say the least. With the injury-inflicted league leaders taking on a relegation-threatened side, the script cannot be predicted.
The rising phenomenon
Real Madrid’s injury crisis has not been easy on the manager. Ancelotti has been forced to rework his dynamics time and time again with a new player falling prey to the endless pit in every game.
The Italian is now in a situation where he has only four players left in the middle of the park. Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, Jude Bellingham, and Dani Ceballos all started Real Madrid’s last game but it was young Nico Paz who stole the headlines.
The youngster has risen to prominence in Los Blancos’ latest injury emergency and his prominence has only increased over the past weeks. In the team’s latest outing against Napoli, he was on the field for close to half an hour and scored a crucial goal in the 84th minute.
With a tight schedule ahead and limited resources at his disposal, Ancelotti must look to rotate his men in midfield. Paz, on that front, is the Italian gaffer’s best choice and must look to make the most of his minutes tomorrow.
The golden chance
The biggest talking point from La Liga so far has been Girona’s stunning run at the beginning of the season. The Catalan side surprised everyone with win after win and stole the headlines by retaining the sole lead in the league until match day 13.
After six straight wins, Athletic Club broke Girona’s streak last weekend with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Estadi Montilivi. Having dropped two points, they are now level with Real Madrid in the standings with 35 points in 14 games.
It will thus be Ancelotti’s objective to take all three points against Granada and make a strong push towards taking the lead over Girona. After all, the co-leaders face a difficult opponent in Valencia and could well drop points.
Moreover, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are set to face off later this weekend. One, or both of the Spanish giants will drop points on the night, thus giving Real Madrid further impetus to gun for all three points tomorrow.
Considering the team’s good run of form in recent games, the dressing room will be confident about securing the much-needed result.