Barcelona beat Real Madrid 5-1 in another classic El-Clasico at the Camp Nou on Sunday. It was a humiliating Clasico defeat for Julen Lopetegui as Ernesto Valverde’s side picked Los Blancos apart in either half with ease.
Barcelona took the lead in the first half with a goal from Philippe Coutinho as early as the 11th minute. Luis Suarez then doubled the lead from the penalty spot at the half-hour mark after he was bundled over by Raphael Varane in the box.
However, Real Madrid pulled a goal back in the second half with Marcelo finishing a sweeping team move to make it 2-1. But Suarez then scored twice in the second half to complete his hat-trick before Arturo Vidal made it 5-1 in the dying stages.
Here are 5 major talking points from the game
Barcelona’s Utter Domination Of Possession
Barcelona is the clear leader of the possession stats in La Liga this season (65.4%) but Real Madrid isn’t too far behind in second place either (64%).
This is why a lot of football fans were surprised when Barcelona had more than 70% possession in the opening stages of the match.
Real’s midfield saw Toni Kroos manage to string together a few passes but Luka Modric was largely missing in action during the first half-hour. Barcelona, meanwhile, saw their midfield of Sergio Busquets, Arthur, and Ivan Rakitic dominate proceedings.
Jordi Alba’s Positioning Tormented The Real Madrid Rearguard
As soon as the match kicked off, Jordi Alba was already at it for Barcelona. The Spanish left-back parked himself near the touchline on the left and sowed the seeds of doubt in Real Madrid on the wide pitch at the Camp Nou.
Whenever Barcelona won the ball in midfield, Alba skulked forward and was pretty much ignored as Real failed to sense his presence.
And it paid off for Barcelona handsomely when they kept the ball for ages and suddenly sprung forward in the 11th minute. A quick diagonal ball to Alba tore open Real’s defence as the scampered to reset their defensive line in the box.
30 – There were 30 passes made in the build-up to Philippe Coutinho’s goal for @FCBarcelona against Real Madrid, the most of any goal in #ElClasico in @LaLigaEN since at least 2005/06. Tiki-Taka. pic.twitter.com/X71FN2kOFV— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 28, 2018
However, there was space between the two lines and Alba’s cutback was perfect for the arriving Philippe Coutinho to direct the ball home past Thibaut Courtois.
Alba’s positioning saw Gareth Bale switch flanks to track his runs and it effectively negated the Welshman’s threat. Bale was closer to the half-line than the final third and even put in a shift defensively, much to Real’s disadvantage in the attack.
Formation Change Pays Off for Real Madrid But Briefly
Raphael Varane seemed to be struggling in the first half (how often do you see the French defender struggle to keep up with Luis Suarez and beaten for pace?) and he was hooked off at half-time, possibly because of an injury.
On came Lucas Vazquez and suddenly it was Real Madrid who was controlling proceedings. Julen Lopetegui made his team deploy a back-three with Casemiro partnering Sergio Ramos and Nacho in defence while Marcelo and Vazquez played as wing-backs.
It was effectively a 3-5-2 formation and the change made Real more potent in attack while also managing to retain possession as Barcelona looked unsure of how to deal with the new system.
Vazquez was basically doing the exact same thing Alba did in the first half as nobody picked him out wide until it was too late and his crosses were quite effective. Real were able to counter and even put in a couple of decent crosses as Barcelona reeled from wave after wave of attack.
In fact, Barcelona was beaten within five minutes of the restart as Marcelo made a run into the box to capitalise on the chaos at the back. A free-flowing Real Madrid move involving Bale, Benzema, Vazquez, and Isco saw the ball fall to Marcelo who took a touch before firing it home.
But as it turned out, the move to a back-three backfired later on.
Valverde’s Tactical Substitutions See Barcelona Put The Game Out Of Reach
Seeing Real Madrid dominating the game and Barcelona ineffective in attack, Valverde made two crucial substitutions to wrest back control.
Rafinha, who was so effective against Inter, had just one shot on goal and was taken off for Nelson Semedo. This saw Valverde move Sergi Roberto to the right wing while Semedo took his place at right-back.
Five minutes later, Philippe Coutinho was also taken off for Ousmane Dembele because the Brazilian was a mere passenger when Real attacked time and again. This substitution was the key as Dembele was tasked with carrying the ball forward and he made an immediate impact.
The 21-year-old Frenchman burst forward on a counter-attack and found Roberto on the right. Their hard-work was crucial with Roberto playing a perfect lob for Suarez to head home from 14 yards out!
Roberto’s attacking instincts also saw him pounce on a Ramos error as the centre-back slipped. All he had to do was release Suarez into space to go one-on-one with Courtois. Once the Belgian keeper was committed to coming off his line, the Uruguayan striker chipped it over him to complete his hat-trick.
Even his third substitution Arturo Vidal helped himself to a goal in the dying stages of the game with no defender in sight as he headed home a cross from Dembele.
Can Julen Lopetegui hold on to his job?
How often can you say that a scoreline flatters the losing side when the scoreboard reads 5-1 at the full-time whistle? Barcelona could have easily scored more had it not been for a couple of very close offside calls and Courtois standing tall in goal.
This is the kind of result that sees managers sacked. Heck, Rafa Benitez was gone in December after just two losses – the second coming in El Clasico.
Real Madrid have lost three consecutive LaLiga games for the first time since May 2009.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 28, 2018
You can’t spell Lopetegui without an L. pic.twitter.com/5ZS8vD4gSl
Real Madrid have now lost four of their last five La Liga matches – against Sevilla (3-0), Alaves (1-0), Levante (1-2), and now Barcelona. Their only draw came against Atletico Madrid in the Madrid derby (0-0). They are now ninth in the table after 10 games
More than the results, it is the lack of a clear tactical gameplan in attack that has fans frustrated and critics breathing down his neck. A humiliating loss in a Clasico may just be the last straw for the Spanish manager.