Real Madrid’s Tactical Brilliance Outshines Barcelona In El Clásico


El Clásico – Flickr Creative Commons

Real Madrid came back from an early 1-0 deficit to beat fierce rivals Barcelona in the 227th fixture of El Clásico. Barcelona went ahead in the fourth minute through a scintillating shot from Neymar, but the following 86 minutes belonged to Madrid.

Carlo Ancelotti lined his men up in a 4-4-2 formation which was perfect for such a game, allowing the team to cover lots of space on the pitch. Christiano Ronaldo was partnered with Karim Benzema up front while Luka Modric and Toni Kroos played in behind.

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The two front-men tormented the Barcelona defense for the better part of the game, and they both ended up with a goal apiece. The Madrid players were ruthless on the counter-attack; they camped near their own box, successfully cutting off the passing lanes and making key interceptions. Barcelona threw numbers forward, attempting to thread the Madrid defense with short passes around the box, but they were easily snuffed out, leaving them quite susceptible to the counter.

Madrid’s tactics paid off, upon gaining possession, they were extremely quick to get up the pitch. Barcelona found themselves getting caught out time and time again. A game which looked to be going Barcelona’s way from the onset became all-to-easy for Los Blancos. Ancelotti’s men were relentless with their pressing, forcing Barcelona into many mistakes.

Luis Enrique did nothing to help his cause either, I was astonished by his ludicrous decision to start Luis Suarez. Suarez — who hasn’t played a competitive match since attempting to bite off a tasty morsel of Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder during the World Cup — was in no condition to play such an important and intense game.

Suarez is undoubtedly one of the best strikers in the world, but after such a lengthy spell on the sidelines, he should have been eased into the Barcelona set up. To his credit, he did provide the assist for Neymar, but he simply wasn’t ready for such a match. He still needs to shed a few pounds, as he looks less fit than Tata Martino.

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Suarez’ inclusion also had an effect on Lionel Messi, the diminutive Argentinian — who so often has the biggest impact when he plays — did nothing of note on Saturday. He was well defended by Real Madrid, but it would seem that having Luis Suarez start next to him (so soon) impacted him negatively. Messi can play in many positions, but a sudden change for such a huge game was never going to look seamless.

The Catalonia outfit — which had not conceded a league goal before today — was really out of sorts. I can’t remember another match where they were caught out so often, this game could have easily ended up with a 6-1 scoreline. They let Madrid back into a game which they should have won, and paid severely.

Gerrard Pique’s intentional handling of the ball in his own box led to Ronaldo equalizing with a calm penalty kick. Pepe would give Los Blancos the lead with a superb header, by getting on the end of a Toni Kroos corner; but the goal which really exemplified Barcelona’s frailty was Benzema’s.

After a clearance from a Barcelona corner, Isco and Andres Iniesta raced after the loose ball, Iniesta should have come away with it as he had the advantage, but his teammate Dani Alves got in his way, leaving Isco free to charge down on goal along with Ronaldo, James Rodriguez and Benzema.

Isco laid the ball off for Ronaldo who passed it to Rodriguez, the Colombian slipped a lovely ball past the near-stationary defense, and into Benzema. The striker did not disappoint, beating the Barcelona goalkeeper, and giving Real Madrid a 3-1 advantage.

Madrid had a few more opportunities to widen their lead, but they cruised to the finish line comfortably. They now sit in second place on the league table, only one point adrift of Barcelona.

Enrique got his tactics wrong, this was the wrong game to hand Suarez as his debut, the team was getting along fine without him. Carlo Ancelotti did well to sucker his counterpart into throwing men forward, but Enrique should have known better as Real’s counter-attack is the deadliest in the game today.

This scoreline is as much a result of Madrid’s tactical brilliance as it is of Barcelona’s mistakes; and truth be told, this was one of the best El Clásico matches I’ve seen in quite some time. The race for the La Liga title is on, it may actually be exciting this time around.