This is what happens when a manager picks his starting eleven on the basis of performance and not on the basis of shirt sales and popularity.
Last meeting’s drubbing was a direct result of Benitez not picking the team that would have fought for the full ninety minutes.
But let’s not talk about Benitez’s Real Madrid which lacked even the slightest hint of fighting spirit, let’s talk about Zidane’s Real Madrid and how they went to Camp Nou and beat the living hell out of President Pique.
Here are the top 10 ways how Real Madrid were able to subdue Barcelona on their own turf:
Real Madrid didn’t allow Barcelona to team up on Bale
And hence Bale was able to run at the Barcelona defense at will.
He went past defenders at will and had he been in peak match condition, he could have scored one or two solo goals. But nevertheless, he was mightily unlucky to have been judged as pushing Alba when he rose up and headed the ball into the goal in the second half.
It was an unbelievable decision by the linesman but nevertheless, Real Madrid kept their heads strong and didn’t waver.
Even without a goal to his name, one could really tell by the atmosphere change in the ground, in terms of noise levels, that even the Camp Nou faithfuls dreaded the worst as soon as Gareth had the ball at his feet. Bale didn’t disappoint them.
He went past Alba, who is a pretty fast left back in his own right, and drove into the heart of Barcelona’s defense with relative ease given the fact that Real Madrid were barely able to penetrate the rigid but a lightweight Barcelona back four.
Bale’s assist for Ronaldo for the winning goal was equally impressive and Bale demonstrated that he could run all day long in a high intensity match even the highest levels, this late in the season.
And let’s not even mention the fact that the cross came from Bale’s right foot instead of the left. The accuracy of the cross was pitch perfect as it was high enough for Claudio Bravo (Barcelona’s valiant goalkeeper) but not far enough for Ronaldo to chest it down behind Alves (which basically took him totally out of the equation) and finish the move off with a calm finish given the circumstances.
It should be clear to everyone now that Bale is the most dangerous player in this Real Madrid squad at the moment. If Real Madrid is to progress in the Champions League, Zidane will have to put Gareth Bale on the center stage to allow him to wreak havoc on the opposition with Ronaldo and Benzema alongside him to cause further stabbings.
This time Marcelo didn’t get sliced in half by Lionel Messi
In other words, Ronaldo along with Kroos helped him out a lot. Messi was shut out from facing him one on one and the organization at the back enabled Marcelo to bomb forward and create chances for the front BBC (Bale, Benzema and Cristiano).
It can be safely said that Messi hasn’t been this bad in a major game since his younger days vs Chelsea.
And while Chelsea used every means, fair or foul, to stop him, Real Madrid put him in a box due to superior thinking on the part of Zidane, who is his heyday was a supreme thinker on the pitch with no equal.
Neymar and Suarez were unable to lure Pepe and Carvajal into committing fouls in danger areas.
If there was one player in a Barcelona shirt who was able to have any effect on the game it was Neymar.
He tried hard, he really did. His diagonal runs inside Carvajal and towards Pepe disturbed Real Madrid’s shape intermittently, but sadly none of his teammates were able to support his work.
Suarez overran a glorious first half open goal opportunity but he probably had that one coming since he had fouled Sergio Ramos in the build up to that particular move.
Carvajal and Pepe were able to control their hard tackling instincts and again, the credit here goes to Zidane’s team talk before the start of the match and more importantly, during the halftime break.
Carvajal, along with Pepe, kept their distance from the trio tricksters of Barcelona and allowed Kroos, Bale and Casemiro to make risky tackles long before MSN could log into Real Madrid’s penalty area.
Zidane’s tactics made sure that even if Real Madrid don’t end up winning the game, they had plenty of chances against Alves and Alba.
Benitez’s Real Madrid could hardly touch Alves and Alba on the defensive with their backs against the wall earlier in the season, but this time around in Camp Nou, Bale and Ronaldo had plenty of opportunities to show their stuff and they ran rings around both relatively speaking.
This Clasico must act as a blueprint to all the teams gearing up for Barcelona in the coming crucial weeks.
The lesson here is simple, that Barcelona’s back four in incredibly mediocre in handling air balls. Obviously, Barcelona’s weakness in the air is not a hidden secret anymore but Real Madrid’s exploitation of that weakness would definitely give Barcelona’s future opponents a glimmer of hope.
Benzema was able to feed and Ronaldo and Bale sufficiently.
And that was another reason why Bale and Ronaldo were so effective against a Barcelona side that attacked very aggressively and closed down the players wearing white with relative quickness.
On the whole Benzema didn’t have a specially great night but that is what you get with a player who is all natural at scoring goals.
Overheads kicks come second nature to Benzema and after his first failed attempt in the first half, he was able to put the second one away in grand fashion.
Other than that, Benzema worked extra hard off the ball against Barcelona and for good reason.
In the modern game of football, against teams like Barcelona, you simply cannot defend with five or six players.
The whole team has to play like a single unit with each part supporting the other. We saw that in the two goals Real Madrid scored where Marcelo and Carvajal were the primary instigators and also when Bale and Ronaldo tracked back to close down Alves and Alba in attack.
Benzema covered Pique and Mascherano for enough amount of time for Bale and Ronaldo to break free of their markers and go for the kill.
This time around, Zidane made sure that Casemiro and Kroos weren’t mere spectators against a Barcelona side that eats up teams who don’t protect their back four with their forward three.
Kroos is the one who is responsible to turn Real Madrid’s defensive input to attacking output.
With Casemiro taking care of defensive duties, Kroos was able to perform that role with much more ease.
Casemiro was deployed as a centre back positioned in the midfield. For all his Brazilian heritage, Casemiro isn’t much of a creator or passer.
So it made sense when Zidane had him to all the dirty work and Kroos to feed Ronaldo and Bale on time in order to be effective at the front.
Real Madrid were able to protect Ronaldo this time and didn’t allow Barcelona to contain him.
Ronaldo in turn delivered for Real Madrid in the most difficult of moments imaginable.
At Camp Nou and with a man down. And not just a man down but a captain Sergio Ramos down. Ronaldo’s winner and assist for a perfectly legal disallowed Gareth Bale goal really showcased his ability to be an all round player like Lionel Messi when given the right conditions to thrive in.
His speed of movement and powerful shots were in a higher league compared to what Pique and Mascherano are capable of dealing with.
They had little idea of how to contain a rampant Ronaldo running at them with full force. And because Real Madrid counter attacked so well on the night, the back four of Barcelona were rarely protected by their midfielders.
Ronaldo also put in a good defensive shift and tracked down Alves and Alba on both wings in the first and second halves respectively.
It seems that Ronaldo is starting to enjoy his natural position as a wide man where he can link up with Marcelo with astonishing accuracy.
Cristiano Ronaldo also came close to scoring another scorcher late in the secon dhalf when Marcelo cut back the ball for him inside the penalty area on the left side of the pitch. Ronaldo took one touch and then unleashed a wickedly spinning shot that had everybody watch in silence after it hit the post.
In a stark contrast to earlier encounters, Modric was able to play without restraints.
Under Benitez, Modric was made to play under a “beautiful” constraint.
He wasn’t allowed to venture forward and God forbid go down the wings to play with the ball.
That allowed elite teams to put their striker’s to work on Modric. And we all know what happens when Modric is bogged down.
The whole Real Madrid system collapses. That wasn’t the case with Modric under ZIdane. Modric played freely and was covered sufficiently well by, Zidane’s masterstroke, Casemiro and hence Barcelona were unable to break down Modric’s day job in the midfield.
Real Madrid made Barcelona completely bypass Iniesta.
And that was one of the major reasons why the trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez couldn’t link up as well as they are so used to by now.
Iniesta is the engine behind Barcelona’s every attacking move and even though Messi gets all the plaudits, at least on online websites apart from this one, the fact is, without Iniesta Messi isn’t half the player he is when he is playing a deeper role.
The fast one two pass understanding both have with each other is a formidable weapon and Real Madrid made sure Barcelona weren’t able to load that weapon all night long.
Keylor Navas was the wall in front of Real Madrid’s goal.
The few chances where Messi and Rakitic could have scored, Navas made sure Real Madrid conceded no easy goals.
The only goal Barcelona did score was thanks to a lapse in discipline by Real Madrid’s tank, Pepe.
Messi did try to beat Navas as Alexis Sanchez (now at Arsenal) beat DIego Lopez a couple of years ago with a sneaky little chip shot.
But this time, Navas was on top of it the moment the ball left Messi’s foot. And let’s not forget about Navas’s parrying ability which was on full display when he stopped a low shot from inside the box from Rakitic.
Barcelona should count themselves lucky to have restricted the scoreline to a respectable loss of 1-2.
Had Bale’s goal been allowed to stand, Barcelona would have been pressured to go forward and that would have opened up more spaces at the back for Ronaldo and Bale to munch onto.
Of all the Barcelona people, Pique would probably be the one most hurt by this loss.
It was Cruyff’s memorial day and it was going so well for him on a personal level until Benzema put one with a bicycle kick right behind him and Ronaldo put one past him when he stood helpless on the goalline.
What Should I Do Now?
The first thing you should do now is go to your friends who support Barcelona and have a good go at them.
Destroy Barcelona people on forums of your choice, on facebook and twitter. Or you could leave a comment here and share the post as I am all ears now.
Whatever happens from now on then, Real Madrid’s season is half saved with his mammoth win over a terribly rude Barcelona side where players wake up in the morning to post their trophy count on twitter. Seriously?