El Classico: 5 – 1

(Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)

In the first El Clasico of the 2018-19 season, Barcelona scored five goals while conceding just the one. 

Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring and a hat-trick by Luis Suarez. Barcelona ran into some trouble early in the second half, but ultimately ran over the visitors with Vidal also scoring late in the game.

VAR was in action too, when in the 28th minute, Suarez was fouled by Raphaël Varane. Play continued as referee José María Sánchez Martínez didn’t point to the spot, but as game stopped moments later, with assistance from VAR and a quick sidelines review, the penalty was awarded, and Suarez scored the second.

This game was a very best example of Tiki-Taka.

Next remaining 15 minutes both the side lacked the final touch. But with Real’s defense committing numerous turnovers Barcelona probably should’ve done more in the last minutes of the first half.

Julen Lopetegui replaced Varane for an offensive threat, Lucas Vazquez. When Vazquez came, I know now Madrid going to rain crosses from both the fullbacks. Vazquez is known for his closing abilities, and he is an engine in the right-hand side. Finally down the right wing where Vazquez found Isco who sent a very dangerous ball into the middle where after a bounce it found Marcelo, and he scored

After the goal, Real was attacking in numbers, and Barcelona was struggling to cope with the pressure. In that Real Madrid missed two golden chances from Luka Modrić who hit the post and an easy tap-in header by Benzema.

 

Correct substitutions at correct time from AV

I think for the very first time Valverde did correct substitutions. He brought on Nelson Semedo in place of Rafinha, resulting in Roberto moving further up the pitch and then Ousmane Dembele for Coutinho. The Frenchman was quickly involved as he featured prominently in a counterattack that ended with Barcelona doubling their lead in the 75th minute. In the 87th minute, Dembele effortlessly skipped past Nacho before sending a perfect cross in front where Vidal rose the highest to score his first Barcelona goal.

Without Lionel Messi and Samuel Umtiti, and in their place, selected Rafinha and Clément Lenglet. Lenglet inclusion was no surprise he playing good and he is only fit center back available. But Rafinha was a surprise, I was thinking Dembele will start the game. With Philippe Coutinho now fielded as a left winger, instructions to Rafinha was evident tuck in and combine with midfield and Roberto, and allow your fullback to bomb forward and overlap, and it worked. Real Madrid was always a player short in the midfield.

First Half Dominance:

Barcelona quickly identified the match-up problem, i.e. Nacho. He is not blessed with pace to play as a fullback. On the other hand, Jordi Alba has loads of it which made Gareth Bale always to track back to left back position and do the defensive work. For a significant part of the first half game, Bale was playing as right-wing-back.

Madrid sat narrow, hoping to contain Barcelona’s narrow wingers. But Lopetegui seemed not to give anyone the task of tracking what happened when both the wingers and the fullbacks moved forward. Either Modrić or Bale should have been helping Nacho. But this often didn’t happen.
It wasn’t only on the left, often Roberto was given explicit license to motor forward. But Barcelona saw a more obvious mismatch in Alba vs. Nacho, and also, this meant going to Coutinho’s side rather than Rafinha’s.
No plan to cover Alba – one of the elite fullbacks in world football, is a crucial and embarrassing flaw in the team Lopetegui set out.

Fight Back:

At halftime, Varane was taken off due to injury and replaced by Lucas Vázquez. Then Real Madrid moved to a 3-4-3, with Casemiro, Nacho and Sergio Ramos in central defense. This game two things,
In attack, Bale and Isco could work the inside channels with Vázquez and Marcelo on the flanks.
In defense, it seemed to clear up the defensive responsibilities, as there was a back five (including the wingbacks) that couldn’t be easily overloaded on the flanks.

That is why Madrid got their first goal through the wingbacks, first with Vázquez in space finding Isco working the inside channel, and eventually Marcelo getting the finish.
Madrid employed a perilous strategy with a very high press, and it paid dividends then, not only in the goal but in the following minutes. Modrić, Ramos, and Benzema were missing clear chances to put Real Madrid ahead.

Kill the Game Off:

Valverde made two important substitutions afterward. He took off Rafinha and Coutinho in quick succession, replacing them with Nélson Semedo and Ousmane Dembélé. By doing this he injected pace into the side as well as fresh players, and crucially as well, he allowed Roberto to go up and play as a winger.

With Madrid pressed up so high, their vulnerability was the counterattack. Once Barcelona was able to break through the initial pressure, there weren’t too many white shirts around. Dembélé started the move for 4th goal and gave assistance to Vidal for the 5th goal.

 

 

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