Real Madrid hosted Barcelona in a huge La Liga match-up. El Clasico is always a big game but the title race implications made this already monstrous game even more important. After a scoreless first half where both teams had chances to open the scoring, Real Madrid would come out of the dressing room hungrier in the second period. A 71st minute deflected shot from Vinicius Junior opened up the scoring. After the goal, the game opened up a bit more as Barcelona had chances to equalize. Unfortunately for the Blaugrana faithful, late substitute Mariano Diaz scored with his first touch to give Real Madrid the victory.
This win was Real Madrid’s first victory over Barcelona since a Spanish Super Cup game in August of 2017. In league play it’s been even longer since a Real Madrid win, last coming in April of 2016. The entertaining affair had a few takeaways that will be important to the rest of this exciting La Liga Season.
Takeaways From Real Madrid’s El Clasico Win Over Barcelona
Similar Formations, Different Executions
Both Real Madrid and Barcelona played similar formations throughout the majority of El Clasico. Both teams would lineup in somewhat of a diamond 4-4-2 formation. However, the same formation wasn’t executed the same for both teams. Real Madrid had Federico Valverde in a right central midfield role where he would often push up into the final third when attacking. Isco played behind Karim Benzema and Vinicius in the hole. Benzema was the natural number nine in this game with Vinicius often creating space for himself on the left flank. A simple through ball from the midfield would free Vinicius up for a run on the left side of the field.
Barcelona, on the other hand, would have Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann playing as the two strikers. Frenkie De Jong, Arturo Vidal, and Arthur would play in midfield with Sergio Busquets playing above the defence. The difference in the execution of the two formations had all to do with the styles of the forwards. Messi is known to roam free on the pitch. Often, the Argentine was found on the right of midfield and even deep in the centre. Similarly, Griezmann isn’t an out and out striker. Both forwards played very deep, leaving Barcelona without a target in the attack. It wasn’t until the 69th minute when Martin Braithwaite would enter the pitch and play the role of target man for the Spanish champions.
Vinicius Junior is Raw Talent
Vinicius was Real Madrid’s most dangerous player in attack. The Brazilian’s pace gives him an edge over his teammates. He brings something entirely different to the team, making him an x-factor. However, he lacks the end product. More often than not, a bad pass, cross, or shot from the youngster will kill a Real Madrid attack. The effort is clearly on display but the football intelligence is often lacking.
Luckily, Vinicius’ goal opened up the scoring for Los Blancos. It was a deflection off Gerard Pique but Vinicius saw his efforts rewarded. Few would argue that he didn’t deserve a goal in this game. While Vinicius often faces criticism, many have to remember that he’s still only 19-years-old. Not just 19-years-old, but he’s also playing for arguably the biggest club in the world. The pressure is unlike any normal person will experience in their lifetime. The young star will only get better with age.
Dani Carvajal Was the Star of the Show
Carvajal is easily one of the most underrated players in the world. From the Real Madrid team that won four Champions League trophies in five years, Carvajal gets the least recognition. In this game, he showed how important he is to this team. Two blocks in the first half during Barcelona attacks were crucial to keeping a clean sheet. A 66th-minute tackle on Lionel Messi was further proof of Carvajal’s defensive awareness. Overall, according to whoscored.com, Carvajal finished the game with four tackles, one interception and two blocked shots.
The icing on the cake was the 90th minute assist to Mariano to secure the victory for Madrid. Carvajal will most likely be facing competition from the currently loaned out Achraf Hakimi next season. However, whether he will be a definite starter or not, the Spaniard is an important asset to the team.
La Liga Title Race Heats Up
This result was the best possible conclusion for the neutral fan. A Barcelona win would’ve meant a five-point gap at the top of the table. However, Real Madrid made up for the loss to Levante last week with a big victory in El Clasico. Now with 12 games left in the season, the title race is hotter than it’s ever been. Every game will be important.
Both teams have flaws which will make for an even more unpredictable race. Barcelona are without Luis Suarez and they have defensive kinks to iron out. Real Madrid, on the other hand, are defensively sound but are failing to fire on all cylinders in the attack.