Saturday’s El Clasico was a thriller in every sense. The manner in which the momentum shifted between Barcelona and Real Madrid on the afternoon was nothing short of a roller coaster with fans glued to the edge of their seats.
Barcelona took the lead in Montjuic after Ilkay Gundogan capitalised on Real Madrid’s defensive lapse early in the game.
The equaliser did not come easy for the Merengues. After a long and hard-fought war, they leveled things up after the hour mark with a goal to remember from Jude Bellingham, before the same player scored the winner in the penultimate minute of the game.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from El Clasico.
Never say never
Truth be told Real Madrid were outlcassed by Barcelona for the better part of yesterday’s Clasico. Carlo Ancelotti’s men appeared to have no plan in place, for it was the Blaugranas who were on the front foot in the opening period.
For the first 45 minutes, Barcelona showed their quality both on and off the ball. They won the half-challenges and created the better chances and could well have been three goals up in the opening half.
Yet, what makes Real Madrid themselves is their never-say-die attitude. Los Blancos have been known to come back from impossible situations over their long and glorious history, and Saturday was no different
Ancelotti’s side walked out of the tunnel after the half-time break with renewed energy, passion, and determination and it showed in their play. All of a sudden, it was Real Madrid who were pushing on the break and winning the midfield battle.
Real Madrid may not deserve the win for their overall performance across the ninety minutes. Yet, football is a game of taking one’s chances, and Los Blancos deserve three points for their sheer tenacity, never-say-die attitude, and confidence in their abilities.
And he does it again
At this point, words fail to do justice to the impact Jude Bellingham is having at Real Madrid.
It is not easy to come into the Spanish capital and settle into the team, let alone perform at a high level. Not only is Bellingham playing like the best player in the world but is single-handedly running the show for Real Madrid at this point.
The Englishman was silent for the better part of the first period owing to the lack of service from midfield. His runs in between the lines were not being picked out, forcing him to drop deeper and orchestrate the play. That too was difficult, especially with Barcelona’s Gavi delivering a masterclass in midfield.
Real Madrid were improved after the break, but Bellingham’s equaliser changed the script completely. The youngster required no help from his teammates in creating the chance as he took a swift turn outside the box and lashed an unstoppable shot into the back of the net.
Once the scores were levelled, the Azulgranas were once again prompted to return to their usual press. The possession was evenly split between the arch-rivals with both teams having their chances.
Yet, the difference came from Bellingham’s boots once again. The chosen one was at the right place at the right time as he put the ball past a helpless Marc-Andre ter Stegen in stoppage time.
The gap is four
With the Clasico win, Real Madrid move to 28 points from a possible 33 so far in La Liga and they handed Barcelona their first defeat of the season.
The gap between the arch-rivals has now been extended to four points, and Ancelotti’s men will be thrilled to have done so away from home. After all, the next Clasico will be at the Santiago Bernabeu, and the advantage will be with the men in white.
Despite their strong start to the season, Real Madrid are surprisingly not the sole leaders in La Liga. Girona sit on 28 points after 11 games as well, a feat that only goes on to show how competitive the league is this season.
The season is far from its conclusive stage, and there is a marathon yet to run. If Real Madrid can hold onto their lead and maintain the steam, however, the title is theirs to lose.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli | UEFA Champions League
Fresh off their 3-0 win against Cadiz at the weekend, Real Madrid return to the field late on Wednesday night to take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A lot has changed since the two teams last met. Napoli sacked Rudi Garcia not so long ago and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new manager. The Italian got off to a great start in the form of a 2-1 win over Atalanta in his first game in the position.
Yet, he will face his first big test in the form of Real Madrid later tomorrow. The Naples-based side will have a lot to prove to their manager and the fans on the night, but it is clear that the Merengues will not treat the fixture lightly either.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli.
The headlining clash
The UEFA Champions League leaves fans spoilt for choice, for it offers the highest quality of football between some of the world’s best teams on a regular basis. The headlining fixtures begin as early as the group stages and only grow in promise as the season progresses.
When Real Madrid were drawn into Group C in this year’s UCL, all eyes were on the team that would take the next highest-seeded spot. It was eventually Napoli that made the cut, making the Spanish-Italian clash the group’s most-awaited game.
Since then, the two teams have already faced off once at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Matchday two of the competition. The clash was evenly balanced for the most part, but Jude Bellingham’s masterclass enabled a narrow 3-2 Real Madrid win.
Close to two months on, the two European giants face off once more, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot help but call the upcoming clash the title clash of the matchday, especially considering the two team’s recent history and what rides on the result.
Real Madrid’s place in the Round of 16 was confirmed after their win over SC Braga in the last matchday. Napoli, however, are yet to secure such confirmation and a defeat tomorrow could potentially reduce their gap over Braga to one point.
Napoli thus need the win to maintain security over their qualification, while Real Madrid hope to cement their place as group leaders with a win. With both teams having a lot riding on the result, the game will have no dearth of life on the night.
Carlo Ancelotti spent many a day in the recent international break plotting means to overcome his midfield crisis. After all, he was without the services of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga had also suffered a gruesome injury on national team duty.
The manager thus deployed his best midfield quartet for the clash against Cadiz, hoping to improve the harmony between the four stars. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham all started but the situation got ugly after the 38-year-old walked off injured in the second half.
Ancelotti thus now faces a bottleneck in midfield. Modric has been excluded from the squad after his latest injury, leaving the manager with just four options from the first-team in midfield. Needless to say, all four players are expected to start in Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond formation on the night.
Bellingham will be deployed as the attacking midfielder while Kroos is likely to play as the pivot. The two interiors will be Dani Ceballos and Valverde, the former of whom has not started a single game all season.
The situation in midfield is thus grim, for the manager can not afford any further injuries in the department.
The man in form
The beginning of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 campaign was all about Jude Bellingham. The Englishman could not stop scoring goals for fun across all competitions and single-handedly won games even in situations where all hope seemed lost.
Rodrygo has stolen the limelight from the English protege in recent weeks, and his resurgence could not come at a better time for Ancelotti. After all, the Brazilian was enduring one of his worst-ever starts to a season but managed to find his footing exactly after Bellingham suffered the blow to his shoulder.
The 22-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in Real Madrid’s recent games. His purple patch began against Braga when he scored once and assisted once to give Los Blancos three critical points.
In the team’s subsequent clash against Valencia, Rodrygo stole the show. In 90 minutes against Los Che, the youngster scored two goals and provided as many assists in the team’s 5-1 win. He added another two goals and an assist to his tally in Real Madrid’s most recent clash against Cadiz.
Needless to say, the spotlight will shine brightly on Rodrygo in tomorrow’s game. As the team’s most in-form player, the onus will be on him to find the required breakthroughs on the night and lead the attack from the front in Vinicius Jr.’s absence.