Contrary to our expectations, Barcelona dominated Real Madrid at the Bernabeu so thoroughly last night that immediately after the game, odds on who Real Madrid’s next manager would be started to make the rounds on social media.
Real Madrid have a large a lead to be caught by Barcelona but fans of the Catalan giants will not care. It’s been a while since Barcelona have played this way in the biggest games and they will be rightly excited for next season.
Xavi warned fans not to expect too much from the game. However, in light of that result, their expectations for the next season have risen, and we, like the rest of the world, are excited to see what a resurgent Barcelona will look like next season.
Here are some game-related thoughts:
Madrid’s over-dependence on Benzema
Karim Benzema was a doubt for the El Clasico game after suffering an injury against Mallorca. After failing a late fitness test, it was announced that Madrid would have to face their dreaded rivals without him. Even the most pessimistic Madrid fan could not have predicted how badly the game would go without their captain.
Unable to hold the ball up properly and keep the ball in the attacking third, their attack was disjointed. That inability to sustain any kind of meaningful pressure affected their defence as Barcelona easily converted Madrid’s failed attacks into counter-attacks.
Benzema will be 35 this year. A club of their stature should not be so reliant on him to play well at this stage.
Xavi’s Squad Improvement
At this point, it’s safe to state that Xavi has done the job he was hired to do quicker than the entire football world anticipated. When the Barcelona legend took over from Ronald Koeman, they were languishing in mid-table obscurity and had lost four straight El Clasicos.
They lost another soon after he was hired, but the performance was an encouraging one. Afterwards, Xavi predicted that improvement was imminent and last night, it became clear to the world just how right he was.
Aubameyang’s Class Being Permanent
The extent to which Aubameyang’s stock had plummeted became clear in January, when Arsenal effectively paid for him to join Barcelona. Arsenal fans deemed the 32-year-old striker “past it,” and many of the same fans boldly predicted that the move would be disastrous for both him and Barcelona.
Auba, as he’s affectionately known, now has 10 goals from 10 starts after a Man Of The Match performance against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Just like his new manager, Xavi said, it’s safe to say that the Gabonese striker has been a “gift from heaven”.
Madrid Midfield and Fullback Positions Need Overhauling
They’ve been amazing servants for Real Madrid, but seeing Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro get outplayed so thoroughly must have hurt Madrid fans. All evening, the trio tried to stop the Barcelona midfield from controlling the contest and failed.
Sergio Busquets is also slower and less mobile at this stage of his career, but the difference is that he has a young midfield duo in Pedri and Frenkie de Jong to cover for him. Madrid must begin actively seeking replacements for their aging midfielders as soon as possible.
The same Madrid fans must have cringed as they watched Ferran Torres and Ousmane Dembele give Dani Carvajal and Nacho Hernandez the runaround. Ferland Mendy is a good left-back but his injury issues have become a source of concern and Nacho is not at the required level.
If Madrid is to compete with a reinvigorated Barcelona next season, they must prioritize the signing of quality starting midfielders and fullbacks.
What Next for Dembele
Ousmane Dembele laid on two goals yesterday in an almost flawless performance. Since he was brought back into the Barcelona squad, the young French winger has sparkled. He has even put in a shift defensively, tracking back to help his team more regularly.
With his contract expiring, the Barcelona management will be aware that in this form, he is one of the best players in the world and might be more amenable to meeting his contract demands.
If they choose not to, the former Dortmund winger will have no shortage of suitors in the summer transfer window.
What It Means for both Teams Going Forward
Like we already mentioned, Madrid cannot be caught in La Liga and despite this scare, they should recover to win the Spanish title easily. How reliant they are on Benzema will be worrying for them, however Thomas Tuchel will have noticed that and factored it into his preparation for Chelsea’s quarterfinal clash with the Spanish giants.
Barcelona are now 3 points behind 2nd-placed Sevilla with a game in hand. Their primary focus until the end of the season will be finishing 2nd and winning the Europa League and with how well they’re playing, that should be easily achievable.
Bet on Spanish La Liga games after the international break here on Betking!