Three talking points from Real Madrid 0-1 Barcelona | Copa del Rey
After drawing Atletico Madrid midweek, Real Madrid slumped to a 1-0 defeat at home to Xavi’s Barcelona on Thursday night in the Copa del Rey. While the Merengues indeed dominated possession, their efforts were just not enough to get past the Blaugrana defence.
In the end, the two sides were separated by an Eder Militao own goal that stemmed from Eduardo Camavinga’s misplaced pass. Ancelotti’s men were made to pay for their few sloppy mistakes in full as they now head to Spotify Camp Nou for the second leg chasing a deficit.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid 0-1 Barcelona.
1. The missed opportunity
The stars could not have aligned more in Real Madrid’s favour as they did for Thursday’s El Clasico. Everything seemed to be going the way of Carlo Ancelotti’s side, except what mattered the most- the result.
The objective on the night was to secure a strong first-leg lead over the Catalans so as to deter their pursuit of the cup and derail their confidence in the league. With three of Xavi’s best players out injured, it shifted more in the Merengues’ favour.
However, their performance on the field lacked conviction. The men in white were the better team in phases but did not have the better chances. Barcelona’s deep defensive line proved too hard a nut to crack for the hosts’ forwards who looked absolutely pocketed on the night.
Considering the entire situation, Real Madrid had to settle with the worst possible result. Despite having a close to full-strength XI, Ancelotti’s men stumbled in their second successive game. This time around, the onus is completely on their own inability to capitalise on a golden chance.
2. Possession does not translate to results
That possession does not win you games has been one of the standard takeaways from most of Barcelona’s games in recent years. To see Real Madrid fall prey to the statement is almost unheard of, given their usual counter-attacking style of play.
On Thursday night, the roles seemed to be reversed. The two sides appeared to have swapped shirts, for it was the men in white who maintained possession and attempted to get through the defence with their passes.
On the other hand, Xavi’s side defended deep. The Catalans maintained their resolution under pressure and looked to capitalise on the counter. It was in a similar fashion that both of Barcelona’s big chances including the goal came.
The Merengues had 65% of the possession at the Santiago Bernabeu and took 13 shots in the ninety minutes. However, they notably failed to hit the target even once on the night and generated just one big chance.
In contrast, two of Barcelona’s meagre four shots were big chances and both hit the target. If not for Ansu Fati blocking his own teammate, both would have resulted in goals.
Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr had close to no impact in the final third, managing just one shot between them in 90 minutes.
Barcelona’s defence undoubtedly deserves praise for their resilience and flawless display, but it is unacceptable for Real Madrid to struggle in the final third to such an extent considering the resources they have.
3. An uphill battle
Of the three Clasicos played this season, Real Madrid have now lost two. The arch-rivals will face off two more times, but both will be at Spotify Camp Nou against relatively stronger Barcelona sides.
A one-goal deficit is not as bad as it appears. After all, Los Blancos have pulled off far superior comebacks in much direr situations. Yet, one knows that it will be an uphill battle.
The second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final is scheduled for the beginning of April, over 30 days after last night’s first leg. A lot will change between now and then as Pedri, Ousmane Dembele and Robert Lewandowski are all expected to be back raring for the Catalans.
Thus, the next meeting between the two sides in March in La Liga will prove crucial. If Ancelotti’s men can beat Barca in Catalonia two weeks from now, they will have momentum on their side. A third successive Clasico defeat, however, would not have good repercussions.
The Azulgranas have well and truly put the pressure on Real Madrid for the second leg. Yet, one knows that another performance with as much dominance as Thursday’s game could suffice to pioneer the required comeback.
Three talking points from Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | La Liga
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid fell to a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona on their first trip to Spotify Camp Nou after more than a year.
The Catalans had not won against the Merengues at home since 2018 ahead of the game but a clutch goal from Franck Kessie helped them turn around the record.
Vinicius Jr opened the scoring early in the game by forcing an error and own goal from Ronald Araujo. The hosts levelled the score in the 45th minute through Sergi Roberto, before the winner arrived in stoppage time.
The game was not without its share of controversy as Real Madrid had a goal disallowed for offside that Ancelotti felt was unfair. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from the fourth Clasico of the season.
1. Quality of full-backs
Real Madrid have etched their names into history as one of the most deadly counter-attacking teams in world football. Their pacey transitions and shifts of play have traditionally progressed through the wing with unreal speed to catch the opponent off-guard even in a momentary lapse in concentration.
Needless to say, the full-backs have always worked in tandem with the team’s wingers to make such speedy counters possible. The glaring problem at Real Madrid currently is that their full-backs do not provide half as much as they need to.
Los Blancos’ counterattack now seemingly consists of only Vinicius Jr on the left wing making a quick transition to find Karim Benzema. With just one outlet, it is difficult for the men in white to be effective.
The story at Spotify Camp Nou was very similar. Dani Carvajal started as the right-back and had a good showing defensively. Yet, he was virtually absent in the final third and left Real Madrid’s right-wing lifeless. In ninety minutes, he managed no crosses or long balls and had just one key pass.
The story at left-back was equally, if not more abysmal. Nacho Fernandez was the candidate deployed in the position and could also not manage a single cross, long ball or key pass on the night. He was eventually substituted for Ferland Mendy but the Frenchman could not do much either.
The difference in the quality of full-backs between Barcelona and Ancelotti’s side is gaping. The Catalans blazed through the wings on the night with Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde who constantly got forward in attack to stretch the men in white. In response, Real Madrid had nothing.
2. A dead right-wing and lack of intensity
It is imperative for any top football team to have the resources to attack both wings, for it is the constant switching of play that triggers errors from the opposition. For a club like Real Madrid to not have such resources is criminal.
The game against Barcelona was completely predictable given that the Merengues’ right wing was nonexistent. Any attack, almost surely, had to come down Vinicius’ wing and this made Barcelona’s defensive work easier.
Dani Carvajal was barely involved in the final third against the Catalans. That, coupled with Federico Valverde’s atrocious showing as the right-winger removed one side of the field from Real Madrid’s game.
Valverde made just 27 passes in 76 minutes and failed to make a single cross on the night. Further, he recorded just one key pass and one accurate long ball in El Clasico.
When Marco Asensio came on for Los Blancos, the equation completely turned around. The winger came on as a direct replacement for Valverde and happened to score the disallowed goal that was millimetres from giving Real Madrid three points.
More importantly, the move for the aforementioned goal was completely down the right flank, a testament to the alarming situation.
3. Goodbye La Liga?
When the clock at Spotify Camp Nou struck 81 minutes, the race for La Liga seemed to be on. Real Madrid had just scored a possible winner and had cut short their deficit with Barcelona to just six points.
Ten minutes later, the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of the hosts. Their lead atop the league standings was suddenly twelve points with just 12 games to go.
History is witness that counting out Real Madrid does not fare well. However, it is difficult to surpass the supposition that the 12-point gap is too wide to bridge.
Los Blancos will continue to fight in the league, but Ancelotti will likely preserve his weapons for the UEFA Champions League where they face a bigger chance at glory.