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El Clasico 2015, FC Barcelona V. Real Madrid: Player Ratings

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Real Madrid faded in the 2nd half and lost a spirited, ill-tempered match to Barcelona in the Camp Nou, 2-1. The result dealt a blow to Real's title hopes, giving the Catalans a four-point cushion with only 10 fixtures remaining. Let's take a closer look at how Carlo Ancelotti's men fared.

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Iker Casillas (7.5): In a true case of statistics having the power to deceive, Casillas only made three saves during the course of the contest--but two of them were absolutely immense. The Spanish international denied a sterling Jordi Alba opportunity in the 86th minute to keep Los Blancos within shouting distance of a draw before turning right around and shutting down a deadly Lionel Messi strike less than a minute later. These saves gave Real a fighting chance to battle for a point. It seemed that maybe he could have reacted a little quicker on Luis Suarez's goal, but to be fair the Uruguayan sniper's placement was superb. A strong game overall.

Sergio Ramos (6): Ramos turned in his usual fiery, passionate performance, orchestrating a surprisingly high line that played (particularly through the first frame) with cohesion and fluidity. Unfortunately, he was out-muscled and out-hustled by fellow center-back Jeremy Mathieu, who powered through him to head home the crucial opening goal in the 19th minute. Mathieu had an inexplicably gaping channel in front of Casillas and made Real pay dearly. Later Suarez blew by Ramos and Pepe to get under Dani Alves' improbable rainbow cross to score the deciding goal.

Pepe (6): Much like his partner, Pepe registered what amounted to a split-decision. Playing with intensity and for the most part demonstrating solid positioning in front of the net. Unfortunately, he was caught out by Suarez and was made to pay for his lack of pace. He was ultimately substituted for Raphael Varane in the 72nd minute and Varane's fresh legs made an immediate impact as Barca surged forward to try and kill the match off.

Marcelo (8): The left back was utterly fantastic on the night. He worked from box-to-box, triggering lightening fast transitions down the left flank in tandem with Cristiano Ronaldo and to a lesser degree Isco. Marcelo intercepted a handful of Barca advances and then time and again would storm down to the 18 yard box to offer support after neatly distributing the ball to Ronaldo, Gareth Bale or Karim Benzema. A towering, tireless performance that should be recognized even in defeat.

Dani Carvajal (6.5): Carvajal (with help from Gareth Bale) did an excellent job of marginalizing Neymar through the first hour of the contest, harassing the Brazilian with sharp, physical tackles. Carvajal was generally more conservative and disciplined with his positioning, staying closer to home and not venturing forward as much as he typically does. It was a solid, if unspectacular performance.

Isco (5.5): Perhaps due to fatigue or perhaps lost in the wake of Marcelo's marauding runs, the young starlet was unable to make much of an impact or exert any real influence on the match before being subbed out for Jese in the 80th minute.

Luka Modric (8): The Croatian midfield general turned in an astonishing shift, playing a full 90 minutes, and alongside Toni Kroos, largely winning the pivotal midfield struggle. Modric's vision and awareness were on full display as he flipped a dangerous, precise ball off the outside of his right boot to Benzema who lobbed a pretty cross to CR7 for Real's only goal. It was a piece of singular brilliance. Modric's understanding with Kroos allowed him to play advanced at times, facilitating attacking movements, but he also dropped deeper when necessary to press Barcelona's midfield and retain possession. It's stunning to think he probably hasn't even attained full-fitness or match-sharpness after his long injury layoff yet.

Toni Kroos (8): Kroos played his best game of the calendar year, relentlessly pressing and harassing an in-from Andres Iniesta, largely nullifying the influence of Barca's veteran talisman. Kroos (like Modric) went forward at times, spraying incisive passes and delivering quality service from corners. Many of us thought that if Real could control the center of the pitch, or at minimum prevent it from being the glaring area of weakness it was against Athletic and Schalke, that they could at least leave Barcelona with a point. Modric and Kroos were imperious, winning their fair share of battles and possession. They gave Los Blancos a chance to win.

Gareth Bale (6.5): Sometimes criticized for his defensive work, Bale did an admirable job of tracking back and supporting Carvajal in neutralizing Neymar. The Welshman helped stifle the Brazilian until tired legs started to tell in the last 20 minutes. On the offensive side, Bale offered blistering, direct runs to the center of the box and should have scored on a feed from Ronaldo that was ruled offside. Bale's north-south running troubled Barcelona's backline but he was ultimately unable to get on the score sheet.

Karim Benzema (8): Benzema was superb, offering fluid attacking movement, underrated vision and an array of deft touches, none finer than the fantastic backheel that found Ronaldo's boot for the equalizer. Benzema was a constant threat, interlocking in deadly triangles with Ronaldo and Marcelo.

Cristiano Ronaldo (8): The Dark Invader played like a man possessed, tracking back to receive balls in the midfield and running tirelessly and ferociously at Barca's backline armed (usually) with impeccable service from Marcelo or Benzema. His finishing touch on the Frenchman's backheel was sublime, as was his flicked on header to Bale that nearly resulted in a second goal.

Substitutes:

Raphael Varane (6): Offered an immediate and noticeable jolt of energy and pace after replacing Pepe. Solid positioning.

Jese (N/A)

Lucas Silva (N/A)