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Humbled, but not broken

David Ramos/Getty Images
I just published a new article on Bleacher Report analyzing the clásico--it's pretty long, because I have a lot to say, and not much good stuff either. So if you're still trying to media-blackout yourself from any news or analysis, I understand if you want to not read it. I myself have been in media blackout for the last couple of days, so as to avoid being depressed by more people talking about how amazing Barcelona is.

In fact, I'll even post this video of Plácido Domingo singing the himno so that you'll be able to get away before you see the analysis.

Isn't that inspiring?

Well, maybe Real Madrid is on its way back. But after getting trounced by Barça in the Nou Camp, well, it looks like los vikingos have a long, long way to go. It didn’t matter that Mourinho was sitting on the bench--it was as if the entire last few months had never happened, and Manuel Pellegrini was back in the dugout.

This isn’t to say that the first few months of the season weren’t fantastic--just that the clásico broke the spell that Mourinho’s arrival, and Madrid’s subsequent brilliance had cast over us madridistas. Even Eduardo Inda, Editor-in-Chief of Marca (the unabashedly madridista Spanish sports daily) criticized Mourinho--"if you don’t run or pressure the ball, you will never beat Barcelona," he said. Compared to his normal infatuated pro-Mourinho rants, this was the equivalent of throwing a brick through a window on Real Madrid’s team bus. Well, almost.

So what can we learn from the game itself? A few key things:

(1) When he’s playing well, Sergio Ramos is one of the best right backs in the world. When he’s not, he’s one of the absolute worst. He played terribly against Barcelona, and David Villa sliced him to pieces.

(2) Even San Iker can make mistakes. If he hangs on to Villa’s shot, then the second goal never happens, and Madrid very possibly goes into the dressing room down 1-0 (or 1-1 if they get the call on the Valdes penalty).

(3) Despite how good he has looked over the past couple of months, Marcelo still has a lot of maturing to do if he is going to be a great player. He was embarrassed in this match by Xavi (understandable--kind of) and by Pedro (not understandable at all). Mourinho really needs to help him with his defense if he’s going to play left back for Madrid in the future.

(4) The same goes for Özil: he was embarrassed by Sergio Busquets, and was totally lost for the whole first half. He didn’t orchestrate any incredible counters, run with the ball at pace, or even make a single half-decent progressive pass. (To be fair, it’s not like Lass was any better in the second half).

(5) Di María needs to stay. The kid is pure dynamite, and should be the frontrunner for the remaining midfield spot once Kaká comes back.

(6) Benzema. What can I say about this guy? I’m still convinced he’s going to be good--but for some reason he’s playing better off the bench this season. Unfortunately, with rumors of Madrid buying Adebayor or Mireiles swirling around, he could have his work cut out for him soon enough.

(7) CR7 needs help! He needs a central creative player to really be himself: without Özil playing the way the young German can, then Cristiano disappears intermittently, and only reappears to take long shots.

Overall, the game was a disaster--from Iker on up, every single player played worse than anything we’ve seen so far this year. I could spend a couple paragraphs moaning about the refereeing--which vacillated between phenomenal (some good calls on tricky offside rulings) and awful (blowing the obvious CR7/Valdes penalty)--but I won’t. Barcelona outplayed Madrid and deserved to win.

It pains me to write that last sentence. But it’s true.

Does this mean that suddenly Real Madrid is a terrible team? That we have nothing to play for, that Barça will run away with every title this year? Not so fast. Just because we had our fantasy bubble burst doesn’t mean that we should give up: Real Madrid still has the youngest team in the Liga BBVA. Mesut Özil, Ángel di María, Gonzalo Higuaín, Karim Benzema, Sami Khedira and Sergio Canales are all astoundingly good players--albeit inconsistent. Iker Casillas--who is, against all odds, mortal--is still the best keeper in the world. And José Mourinho, no matter what criticisms Barça fans, UEFA, or any other commentators hurl at him, is still the best coach in the world.

So fine: be angry, be depressed, go into media blackout. But more than anything, remember that this team isn’t finished yet. Remember that Madrid is a work in process, that this team has an unlimited potential. Remember that we still have Kaká coming back from injury, that these players have known each other for a little over three months. Remember not to write us off, because this group of players, with this coach, still has everything to accomplish.

Even in this, one of the darkest hours of madridismo, there is still hope. I’ve said it all year, and I’ll say it again: be patient. This team, this coach, this administration, can and will do amazing things--just give them time. Hala Madrid.

Hala Madrid.

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