Real Madrid and Barcelona have tonight brought football back to the centre of the stage after the dreadful week following the terrible Paris attacks.
Ninety minutes of perfect football made us forget all of the worries as the two greatest rivals locked horns at Santiago Bernabeu in their 231st match together.
Rafael Benitez relied on his usual forces with Gareth Bale making his 100th appearance for Real Madrid, but without a single academy player in the starting line-up for the first time in last 52 years.
On the other side, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique opted to leave the four-time World Player of the year Lionel Messi on the bench for the mammoth duel against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu. The Argentine had not played a competitive game since he suffered a knee ligament damage against Las Palmas late in September, and Enrique didn’t want to risk him from the start.
And he was right to do so.
Real Madrid were dealt a huge blow in the first El Clasico of the 2015/16 La Liga season, with rampant Barcelona putting four past Keylor Navas this evening at Santiago Bernabeu.
Los Blancos opened the game in high tempo, putting a lot of pressure on Barcelona backline, but their efforts were short-lived as the Catalans’ patience proved crucial in the game.
No Messi? No Problem!
Lionel Messi was given a run in the second half and he did well to cut slice through Real’s defence in several occasions, but it was evident that the Argentine was still holding back following his lengthy lay-off. Messi’s two-month absence left no mark on Barcelona’s form, as Neymar and Luis Suarez did wonders to make up for the loss, scoring the total of 19 goals between them.
It was exactly the Uruguay striker who stood up from the rest of the team in tonight’s game as he managed to score a brace and put an impressive all-round display to help his team earn an important victory over the bitter rivals.
Luis Suarez opened the scorings on 11 minutes with his accurate shot into the bottom left corner. Stunned and completely confused, Real Madrid were never in the game and Neymar made it 2-0 in the closing stages of the first half, when he received a beautiful pass from Iniesta, slotting the ball underneath the Real Madrid shot stopper Keylor Navas.
Andres Iniesta crowned his excellent performance with a superb goal 53 minutes in the game when he latched on to a pass on the edge of the box and fired a fantastic first-touch shot into the top right corner.
Barca’s outstanding victory was rounded by phenomenal Luis Suarez after 74 minutes when he received a well-taken defence-splitting low pass inside the penalty area for an easy finish past Real keeper, leaving Messi feeling superfluous.
Real’s reality check
Something is not working properly at Real Madrid and it is now more evident than ever. The second defeat in a row, following the loss to Sevilla before the international break, has put Real manager Rafa Benitez under scrutiny.
Completely outwitted by his counterpart Luis Enrique, Real Madrid manager could pay the ultimate price. His tactical approach was lacking the true firepower, despite the fact he opened the game with his striking trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale all on the pitch from the off.
Pressured to make changes to his renowned defensive solidity, Rafa Benitez was pushed out of his comfort zone, and he paid a huge price for doing so.
Barcelona’s close-knit midfield left no space available for Los Blancos to develop their play, and the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo did not fire a single shot towards Claudio Bravo’s goal in the first 45 minutes speaks volumes of Barcelona’s dominance.
The Catalans left Los Blancos completely exposed and humiliated. Moving quickly off the ball, creating space when there was none to go by, Barcelona made runs through the Real defences in many occasions leaving poor Los Blancos looking like innocent bystanders.
The result from Santiago Bernabeu now leaves Barcelona with a six-point cushion in front of their rivals, piling all sorts of problems for Rafa Benitez who is losing confidence from the terraces, from his players and, most importantly, from the Board.
REAL MADRID: Keylor Navas 5.5; Danilo 6, Raphael Varane 6, Sergio Ramos 6.5, Marcelo 6 (Carvajal 6); Toni Kroos 5.5, Luka Modric 6, James Rodriguez 5.5 (Isco 5); Gareth Bale 6.5, Karim Benzema 6, Cristiano Ronaldo 6.5.
Unused subs: Casemiro, Casilla, Jese, Kovacic, Pepe.
BARCELONA: Claudio Bravo 8.5; Dani Alves 7.5, Javier Mascherano 6.5 (Mathieu 6.5), Gerard Pique 7.5, Jordi Alba 7.5; Sergio Busquets 7.5, Andres Iniesta 9 (el Haddadi 6.5), Ivan Rakitic 7 (Lionel Messi 6.5); Sergi Roberto 8, Luis Suarez 9.5, Neymar 9.
Unused subs: Adriano, Ramirez, Ter Stegen, Vermaelen.
REFEREE: David Fernandez
Other results this evening:
Real Sociedad 2-0 Sevilla