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Three talking points from Real Madrid 0-1 Barcelona | Copa del Rey

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

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.

Benzema and Vinicius were ineffective (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

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Features

Five players who will be fixed starters for Real Madrid next season

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Following a successful campaign, Real Madrid are poised for significant changes in their roster due to a combination of player arrivals and departures.

The responsibility of blending new faces with established stars will fall to coach Carlo Ancelotti and his staff as they aim to maintain the club’s competitive edge domestically and in Europe.

And to predict the team’s probable strategy and performance amidst these changes, it is imperative to identify the key players who will be constant starters.

Kylian Mbappe

The new talisman. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

With Real Madrid no longer viewing Mbappe through rose-tinted lenses and finally being able to dress him in the royal white jersey, the Frenchman is expected to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Owing to his instinctive nature to find the back of the net, he is poised to be paired alongside Vinicius Jr. in attack.

Last season, the 2018 World Cup winner scored a whopping 44 goals in all competitions. Thus Real Madrid will be banking heavily on Mbappe’s ability to ask questions of opposition defenders in the final third.

It is being said that Mbappe is all set to wear the iconic number 9 jersey at Real Madrid, which is indicative of the role he will play, as a focal striker.

Vinicius Jr.

The main man at Real Madrid. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Brazilian is in pole position to win the Ballon d’Or this year, and looking back on his season with Real Madrid, it is easy to see why.

Despite losing Karim Benzema, his usual partner in crime over the past few years, Vinicius performed remarkably well in Ancelotti’s new system.

Relentlessly taking on defenders, arriving into space, scoring goals, and stepping up in the biggest of moments, he was one of Real Madrid’s major lynchpins throughout the season as they lifted a historic double.

Vinicius impressively racked up 24 goals last season, and given his importance to the team, the likelihood of him not maintaining a starting role next season is nearly nonexistent.

Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid Fans’ Player of the Season. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Defying all expectations in his debut season, Jude Bellingham established himself as a key player for Real Madrid, demonstrating exceptional versatility, and maturity far beyond his years.

Although the Englishman’s performances wavered in the final stretch of the season, Bellingham’s contributions ensured Los Blancos were able to compete in the Champions League and especially La Liga.

In addition to scoring 23 goals in all competitions, he has constantly been a beacon of reliability in midfield and has proven to be the voice of reason on the pitch.

There have been murmurs about Bellingham potentially being berthed deeper next season as Real Madrid intends to use him as Kroos’ replacement. However, given his versatility, he is expected to be a crucial player wherever he plays.

Antonio Rudiger

A mainstay at the back. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Rudiger is one of the major reasons Real Madrid managed to successfully disguise their injury crisis. Despite players falling like dominos in the back-line, the German stood resolutely as a dependable figure for most of the campaign, arguably enjoying one of his best seasons.

Expertly anticipating opposition strikers’ movements, he leaps forward to thwart attacks before they begin. Moreover, thanks to his large stature and incredible recovery pace, he is able to cover distances behind.

Reports have mentioned that Carlo Ancelotti views him as a crucial component of the squad and potential arrivals, such as those of Leny Yoro and Rafa Marin, in the back-line are unlikely to devalue his presence.

Thibaut Courtois

Back like he was never gone. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

In spite of spending more than half of the campaign on the sidelines recovering from an ACL and MCL injury, Courtois is worth his weight in gold for Real Madrid.

He performed admirably in the final few games of the season and did no wrong against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League final.

While Andriy Lunin made up for his absence with flying colours, he is placed below Courtois in the pecking order for now, which also has made the Ukrainian lean towards an exit.

The fact that Lunin, after his sublime season, stands no chance of dethroning Courtois between the sticks is a testament to how much the club appreciates the Belgian. Even at the age of 32, the Belgian keeper is anticipated to retain an important role in the team.

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