LaLiga: Barcelona overrun a hapless Real Madrid that lacked ideas, Karim Benzema-Sports News , Firstpost

Barcelona outclassed and overran a listless Real Madrid to end five game losing streak in Clasicos going back to 2019. Talking points from Barca’s 4-0 win.

Barcelona ran riot over Real Madrid to register a splendid and jaw-dropping 4-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bagged a brace with goals also coming from Ferran Torres and Ronald Araujo. And the margin could, and should, have been bigger. Over the course of 90 minutes, Barcelona were rampant and bar a glorious chance for Vinicius Jr no clear opportunity came the hosts’ way.

The win not only reduced Barcelona’s deficit on league leaders Real Madrid to 12 points, but it also ended their five game losing streak in Clasicos going back to 2019. To justify the dominance of it all, this is the first time Real Madrid have conceded four league goals at home since November 2015 – also against Barca.

Here are the key talking points from the Clasico:

Ancelotti got it all wrong

For Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti, it was a difficult decision to make: who should he play in the absence of an injured Karim Benzema. Against expectations of playing Marco Asensio, he went with Vinicius Jr on the left, Rodrygo on the right with Federico Valverde and Luka Modric running down the centre. And it proved to be a disaster.

Barcelona dominated the ball and it seemed Real’s plan was to play on the counter. Playing further up than usual, Modric looked out of ideas and wasn’t sure what to do when the opportunity presented itself. Valverde didn’t get much of a look in either and had very few, if any, opportunities to gallop forward. It didn’t help that Barcelona moved the ball quickly, pressed higher and made very few mistakes.

Ancelotti later explained that the idea was to have Modric as No 10 to take the ball out from the back and find spaces with Valverde, Rodrygo and Vinicius. Clearly, that didn’t work. And Ancelotti was quick to accept he got the tactics wrong.

“The strategy didn’t work well and I didn’t plan well. Barcelona played better than us. But for me it is not problem in accepting responsibility. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong,” he said in the post-match press conference.

Tale of two strikers

Two in-form strikers were inside the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on a chilly night in Madrid. One was on the pitch, warming up, taking in the applause and readying for his first Clasico. The other, a veteran of this clash, was sat in the comfortable VIP area, nervous, warm but wishing he was on the field instead.

The first, Aubameyang, found the net twice to take his goalscoring tally to seven goals from as many league games. He also continued his prolific streak against Real Madrid: six goals in five games.

The Gabonese striker is the second player to score twice and provide an assist on a Clasico debut. The first? Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano in 1953. You don’t get much better than that.

And the two goals begged the question why Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta let him go? For the first, he sprinted to the near post and headed in from a Ousmanne Dembele cross. For the second he remained in-line with the final defender and dinked past Thibaut Courtois to make it 4-0.

The second of those two strikers, Karim Benzema sat alongside Ferland Mendy. Both players were injured and had no chance of making the team. Benzema took his tally to 22 goals against Real Mallorca and is top of the Pichichi charts by a considerable margin (8 goals more than Vinicus). But in the closing stages of the contest, he picked up a calf injury. Blow to any other player can be worked around but not Benzema. And it showed.

“We don’t think we lost because there was no Karim. What happened is that we tried to push higher, but they opened the scoring and it cost us,” said Ancelotti.

The numbers tell a different story, despite Ancelotti’s reluctance. Real Madrid have failed to score in three of their last 10 matches in all competitions. Benzema did not feature in any of them.

This over-reliance on Benzema has been a challenge for the club ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left. The goals dried up but disaster was mitigated by strong defensive performances – Sunday being an exception.

If this was an indication, Real Madrid desperately need Benzema back for the Champions League quarter-finals.

Araujo, Pedri raise the bar

Araujo had the daunting job of containing the tricky Vinicius Jr. Quick feet, trickery and lots of running off the ball are central to any Vinicius performance and it was no different in the Clasico. The difference? The impact was limited because of Araujo. Of the two aerial duels he contested, he came out with the ball on both.

Beyond a solid defensive job, he also beat David Alaba to the ball and headed the ball in from a Dembele corner.

Special mention must be reserved for Pedri. He didn’t score or provided an assist but put in the hard yards to contain Real Madrid. The midfielder is a special talent and it was pretty clear to see.

He is consistent in passing the ball and is the kind of player managers would love to have. Playing alongside Torres, Pedri worked with him in tandem as if they were connected together by a rubber band.

Xavi highlights he’s on the right path

Xavi acknowledged the win won’t be enough to wrestle the league title away but is a shot in the arm for the project.

“I am proud but we have to keep going. We have not done anything. It is a Clasico and strengthens the project but we have to keep adding to it. More than going against anyone, we have convinced ourselves that we have to play in this manner,” said Xavi after the 3 points.

Stat to point out the progress: Barcelona had only scored three goals collectively across their previous five league matches against Real Madrid under Ronald Koeman, Quique Setien and Ernesto Valverde. With Xavi, four came in just 90 minutes.

Effectively, this win could make no difference to the team standings but it makes a world of difference in assessing the growth of the club. “I think it can change the dynamic of the present and the future,” said Xavi.

During the 90 minutes, young and older members of the squad put in a shift as they played with confidence, desire and a certain swagger.

The perfectionism of Xavi was all too evident. Even at 4-0, he was jumping up and down, berating players for losing the ball and making sloppy passes. “I get really angry when we lose the ball. You can lose ball in the final third, but not in your own half. That’s why [I was angry]. If you drop the demands, you don’t get results,” said Xavi who sounds more and more like Pep Guardiola with each passing day.

On the basis of the 90 minutes, his team has started to play a lot more cohesively, like Guardiola teams do, and it appears trophies won’t be too far away either.

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