Barcelona and Real Madrid faced off in a mid-week, top of the table La Liga clash. The two European giants were level on points going into the game. It ended 0-0 at the Camp Nou which means nothing changes in the league table. Both teams had chances to give themselves the edge. However, great finishing was not on display as there were many missed opportunities for both sides. While this game isn’t comparable to the thrilling El Clasico games of the past, there were still some key takeaways that affect the ongoing, tight La Liga race.
Biggest Takeaways from El Clasico
Barcelona’s Midfield Problems
Right from the get-go, one could tell how Barcelona would play based in the midfield selection prior to the game. They were without Sergio Busquets and Arthur, two key players that have been vital for them this season. Instead, the midfield three was comprised of Frenkie De Jong alongside Sergi Roberto and Ivan Rakitic. This midfield three represented a real dichotomy in the middle of the park. Rakitic and Roberto fit into Ernesto Valverde’s style of pragmatic football. Both are industrious players that will cover the distance on the pitch. De Jong is more in the mould of the typical ‘Barcelona Style”’ as he is a Cruyffian footballer who came out of the Ajax academy.
On one hand, this midfield three is good if you’re going for a draw. Their work rates will frustrate the opposition. On top of that, they can do well absorbing pressure. On the other hand, creatively, De Jong was isolated. The Dutchman did well in spurts, progressing the ball and freeing up some space for himself, but the disconnect was clear. It’s smart to put payers with different roles in midfield but the attack clearly needed someone to thread the ball from midfield to the attacking third.
As a result, Real Madrid were in control for large parts of the game, much to the Blaugrana faithful’s dismay. Valverde has been under the microscope with Barcelona fans and this performance from the midfield will do him no favours in winning the fans over. However, he didn’t have many options sith two key players currently being injured. The introduction of Arturo Vidal in the second half was more of the same rather than a clear change.
Real Madrid Were the Better Team
Zinedine Zidane has drastically improved Real Madrid compared to last season. Their defence looks sorted out, and the introduction of Federico Valverde into the starting 11 on a consistent basis has been a huge bonus. Zidane will be upset that they couldn’t grab the victory as Barcelona looked on the ropes for stretches of the game. However, if you would’ve told Zidane that Real Madrid would get a point at the Camp Nou prior to the game, he probably would’ve taken it.
Barcelona have been undefeated at home and now the return fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu will be in Real Madrid’s favour. Eden Hazard was absent from this game, his return will only be good for Real Madrid as is he the type of player that can flip a game like this on its head.
It’s important to note that Real Madrid have strength in depth. The likes of Luka Modric and Rodrygo saw their introductions off the bench. Luka Jovic, Vinicius Junior, and Eder Militao were also possible options. Zidane has a wealth of talent to deal with. The Frenchman can deploy quick, pacy wingers on either side of Benzema or insert Isco in the hole. Real Madrid can take a lot of positives from this game. They can only get stronger which will be a worry for their biggest rivals.
Football is Inherently Political
In the 55th minute, during a Barcelona substitution, beach balls were thrown onto the pitch. They were a form of protest from the mostly Catalan crowd at El Clasico. Football is a universal game loved by people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, ages, and sexual orientations. However, with that comes politics. Teams represent cities and countries, this has everything to do with politics. The biggest football matchup in the world was originally delayed due to political unrest in Catalonia. No matter what side you are on, everyone must recognize that football is political. Many will look at this particular moment in this match as a big message. This is a world stage, over 90,000 people are in attendance and millions are watching around the world.