Barcelona romped to a dominant Clasico triumph on Saturday as two goals from Luis Suarez inspired them to a 4-0 thrashing of Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Rafael Benitez had vowed to attack the Liga leaders and he named Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez in his starting line-up, but it was Barca who took the lead when Suarez fired beyond Keylor Navas, with the returning Lionel Messi watching from the bench.
Neymar made it 2-0 shortly before the break and a stunning goal from Andres Iniesta put the champions firmly in charge early in the second period before Suarez’s delicate finish made it four after Messi – who came on in the 57th minute – had fed Jordi Alba.
Madrid’s players never looked comfortable in Benitez’s deep-lying set-up and the front three were isolated throughout, though Claudio Bravo denied Cristiano Ronaldo superbly late on.
The result means Barca are now six points clear of Madrid at the top of the table and piles further pressure on Benitez’s shoulders ahead of a crucial few weeks before the winter break.
After a slow opening it was Neymar who missed the first good chance, blasting over the bar from the edge of the area after Suarez had teed him up following Alba’s cross.
Madrid responded swiftly, Bravo beating away Ronaldo’s cross after some fine interplay between the reunited front three of the Portuguese, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.
But Barca were in front with 11 minutes on the clock. Sergi Roberto burst through the heart of midfield and, as Sergio Ramos pushed up to close him down, he slipped the ball through to Suarez who bent a low shot past Navas and into the bottom corner.
Neymar brought a good save from Navas with a free-kick before Bravo denied James Rodriguez low to his left after Luka Modric set him up 20 yards out, but Barca doubled their advantage just six minutes before the break.
Iniesta was granted far too much time and space in the final third and a delicate chipped pass allowed Neymar to spring the offside trap and squeeze the ball under Navas at the near post.
Barca almost made it three just before half-time, Marcelo recovering superbly to head the ball off the line after Neymar had combined brilliantly with Suarez.
Madrid came flying out of the traps in the second half and Marcelo should have done much better when he fired into the side-netting after running clean through down the left.
Bravo turned a James shot around the post but Madrid were cut apart again on 53 minutes as Barcelona bagged a third. Iniesta, once more given the freedom of the final third, passed in to Neymar and, after the Brazilian back-heeled into his path, fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
Benitez threw on Dani Carvajal and Isco and the full-back came close to a goal as he scuffed a shot narrowly wide, before Raphael Varane headed straight at Bravo from close range.
Bale bent a fine pass to Ronaldo on the break but Bravo stood up well to deny the Portugal captain’s lofted effort, and Barca had a fourth just six minutes later. Alba touched Messi’s pass on to Suarez, who clipped a finish beyond Navas and into the far corner without a Madrid defender in sight.
Bravo saved superbly to keep out Ronaldo’s header and Madrid’s evening went from bad to worse when substitute Isco was sent off for kicking Neymar as he ran clear in the closing minutes, allowing Barca to ease to an emphatic victory.
Key Opta stats:
– Luis Suarez’s first goal in this game came after a build up of 24 passes; the most for a La Liga goal in 15-16 (24 passes).
– Barcelona have recorded their second biggest win without conceding in a league away game against Real Madrid (5-0 in 1974).
– Andrés Iniesta has scored and assisted in a Clásico for the first time in his career for Barcelona.
– Barcelona have scored in their last 20 games against Real Madrid, their longest scoring run in clásico history.
– Keylor Navas has conceded 13 goals in his four games against Barcelona in La Liga, more than versus any other club.