Clasico – Talking Points
Real Madrid triumphed 3-1 over Barcelona on Saturday evening to close the gap between themselves and Luis Enrique’s side to just one point. Despite Barcelona striking early on through Neymar, Madrid fought back and won the match comfortably in the end, in what was a match played at a very high tempo.
At the Bernabeu on Saturday night it was individual brilliance rather than a solid team performance that allowed Madrid to beat Barcelona. The match was played at such a high tempo because there seemed to be very little structure to the game. In years gone by Jose Mourinho’s sides were built from the back and set out to defend and counter against Barcelona. While Madrid still looked most dangerous on the counter, it didn’t feel like that was the actual plan; rather just a consequence of Barcelona giving the ball away and being exposed.
Carlo Ancelotti has been trying to build a team that play the ball more than in previous years, and with the likes of Kroos, Modric and Isco he has the personnel for it. However, Madrid still aren’t as skilled at Barcelona in this type of play, as was reflected in the possession stats after the match with Barcelona enjoying 58% on the evening. Similarly for Barcelona they still lack the cutting edge in attack against the top sides and struggled to break through Madrid’s backline. Luis Suarez started and admitted after the game that he wasn’t aware he couldn’t yet play 90 minutes, perhaps using him as a late sub would have been more effective for Enrique.
In among the chaos and end to end attacks there were some incredible individual performances from the home side. Isco, once again, was sensational. The young Spaniard’s name rang out around the Bernabeu, just as it had done midweek at Anfield. His determination lead to the third goal when he chased down a seemingly lost cause and forced a mistake from Iniesta before Benzema finished the move. Another young Spaniard, Carvajal, had a great game too. He was first to every single ball and showed a lot of passion in his performance without letting his emotion ever get the better of him. Intelligent performance from the fullback who attacked sensibly and defended very well.
For Barcelona there weren’t many positives to take. Pique, as he usually does against Real Madrid, had a bit of a nightmare. His handball gave Madrid a way back into the game and he later gave the ball away twice inside his own box to first Ronaldo then Benzema. At the other end Neymar played pretty well while Messi was relatively quiet. So too was Ronaldo for Madrid; who was a bit too unselfish at times. Had he not chose to pass in the final third he may have scored another couple of goals, instead of giving the ball away.
Karim Benzema had a great game up top, holding the ball up and linking the play during counter attacks. James proved he is capable of tracking back and helped double up on Neymar with Carvajal all match. Jeremy Mathieu made a few errors but overall played well, his long range strike was also the closest Barcelona came to pegging Madrid back after losing the lead. Despite a few early bookings it was also one of the cleanest Clasico matches we’ve seen in a few years. No handbags to speak of this time around.
In the end Madrid deserved to win. They had more chances, were more solid at the back and looked as if they wanted it more than Barcelona. It means that the title race in Spain is now very close. After nine rounds of matches the top five teams are separated by just two points. Barcelona, Sevilla, Madrid, Valencia and Atletico are all fighting it out at the moment. If this keeps up then it has potential to be an even better title race than last season.