Three key talking points from Real Madrid 3-1 Barcelona
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.
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.