Real Madrid produced a late surge to beat Barcelona and win the first Clasico of the season 3-1 on Saturday.
The first Madrid attack ended in the first goal of the game, Fede Valverde hammering home after surging into the Barca box, but within four minutes Ansu Fati had tapped in an equaliser from close range.
Both teams missed further chances to add goals in the first half, before Philippe Coutinho notably nodded wide just after the restart and Fati sent one wide – before Sergio Ramos was gifted a penalty which he tucked away himself.
Barcelona pushed for an equaliser, but the final word came from sub Luka Modric who twisted and turned in the box before finishing minutes before the final whistle.
Here are five things we learned from El Clasico on Saturday.
End to end encounter
Neither team came into the game in tremendous form, neither team are at their peak, neither team appear completely at ease with their own squad or work in the transfer market of late.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, neither team had outright control of the game from the off: ten minutes into the game there was a goal at either end, 20 minutes in there were golden chances for either side to take the lead.
It made for great entertainment and the ever-open question of who would actually take the points – but also backed up the point that both teams have a long way to go to reach their former elite status as European contenders.
The crazy nature of the play did subside somewhat in the second half, but more out of tiredness and Madrid having a lead to protect rather than through genuine control of the match.
La Masia’s blueprint
The legendary Barcelona academy graduates rolled off the tongue for years and the final members of that clutch of talent remain involved now.
But between then and the current side, there was a real disconnect between La Masia and the first team; an unwillingness on the part of some coaches to play the young hopefuls, and an incapacity on the part of many of the highly touted prospects to actually reach the standards which had been set by those before them.
Now, however, there’s a solid-gold stamp of approval about the skill set and the process, with the impact Ansu Fati has had.
His goal early on here was just another stepping stone to the top, but his all-round game, his movement, link play and ability to do different tactical jobs have been on show for weeks and months already.
More of the same and maybe the famous old Academy can become a productive one again.
The new Barca boss has played a fairly regimented 4-2-3-1 this season: usually Coutinho in the 10, Messi up top, Antoine Griezmann coming inside from the right and Ansu Fati on the left. Off the ball Coutinho dropped in, bringing a potential fifth in midfield when required.
Here a change saw it be more tilted toward a 4-4-2 variation than a 4-5-1; Messi dropped as the spare man, Ansu played ahead of him and Coutinho was in off the left, a narrow option who could remain slightly higher thanks to Nacho being the less-adventurous right-back for Madrid.
With Pedri the right-sided runner, his job was to shut down the flank, match the surges forward of Ferland Mendy and support Serginio Dest defensively.
For an hour or so he would have been marginally pleased that he had frustrated Madrid and given his team a solid footing – but when tiredness crept in, he failed to react, his subs didn’t impact and Madrid ran away from Barcelona.
Koeman will take some of the flak here, but it is more to do with a lack of depth being fit and firing than his initial tactics for the game.
Lucas steps up…again
He’s rarely, if ever, a go-to starter for fans, pundits and even the manager. But Lucas Vazquez has the trust of Zinedine Zidane that he’ll perform when needed, regardless of where on the pitch.
The winger filled in at right-back this time, a sub just before half-time for the injured Nacho – essentially stepping in as the fourth-choice option in that position given that Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola are both absent.
He has played there before and produced a typical performance: determined, better-than-expected in terms of positional awareness, fiercely combative in one-on-one situations and a good outlet on the counter when given the chance.
Lucas rarely grabs the headlines and his game time is increasingly on the wane, but he is the player to rarely let Madrid, or Zidane, down when they need him most.
Given the inconsistency seen by both teams so far this season, it’s not outrageous to suggest that other clubs might see this season as an opportunity to get closer to the title race – but Barcelona and Real Madrid will remain the favourites until they’re mathematically out of the running.
Again, it’s early, but few want to be the team chasing at any stage of the season – and a Real Madrid win makes it a six-point gap already between the two teams.
Barcelona’s home form in El Clasico encounters is pretty torrid of late, with just one win out of the last seven in LaLiga at the Camp Nou.
Much work lies ahead if they are to challenge last season’s title-winners, while for Real it’s about trying to find consistency.
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