The atmosphere was set up for a successful night as thousands of supporters greeted the tour bus a few hours before the match but the team was met by a cloud of misfortune on the pitch.
The team was very invested in making it to the next round that they were putting everything on the line but the decision ended up costing Madrid.
Besides the lingering pressure prior to the match, the first challenge for Santiago Solari was choosing a starting lineup.
Many spectators supported the idea of the veteran players starting the match since it was an important match so a lot of them did, however, there were notable some notable changes.
The attacking trio upfront was a familiar sight as Karim Benzema played with Vinicius Junior to his left and Lucas Vazquez over Gareth Bale to his right.
The defensive line, including the keeper, was the most surprising change as Sergio Reguilon played in place of Marcelo and Keylor Navas took over for Thibaut Courtois.
On paper, nothing was wrong with the lineup. In Solari’s eyes, these 11 were deserving of their spots. He put his best foot forward before leaving the game to the players.
Right from the start, the team was playing more creative than usual, trying and risking new things to try and grab an early lead.
While every player had their positions on paper, many were shifting in and out of different positions and really throwing everything to the game.
Toni Kroos and Casemiro were the two pivotal men.
Casemiro was dropping back to help Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane work the central defence and this move allowed Reguilon and Vazquez to do some work up front.
Kroos, on the other hand, was moving up with the two Spaniards plus Vinicius Jr. and Benzema.
With five players time and time again running at Barcelona’s defence, it was very unfortunate that none of work lead to a goal.
Vinicius Jr. had really good chances and was taking them every chance he could. He was Madrid’s leading man up-front instead of Benzema with six shots on goal however none hit the mark.
At only 18 years of age, spectators can’t be mad about how he is playing but his finishing touch needs to improve if Solari’s men want to continue to rely on him.
Besides the Brazilian, nine other players had a shot on goal but only recorded one each. Reguilon’s header in the 61st minute was one of the best opportunities for the team to grab a goal put an impressive save from Marc Andre ter Stegen kept it out.
Having 15 shots on target is average for a game however having just under half of them from one young player who has only been at the club for a few months.
Yes, Vinicius Junior is talented and has an absurd amount of talent but the veteran players should have stepped up when everything was on the line.
Ernesto Valverde’s side however only recorded four shots on goal throughout the entire 90 minutes but came out on top. The reason? The team mentality.
In contrast to Madrid’s willingness to throw everything in attack, Barcelona remained consistent in their formation and willed a breakthrough to come even though they had to wait until the 50th minute.
In the first half, Luis Suarez virtually had no impact since he was being man-marked by Varane and captain Lionel Messi was dictating the route of play rather than moving forward himself.
Most of the work on the wings was done by Ousmane Dembele, who tested Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane well and set up Suarez for the opening goal.
It was the consistency and determination of the Catalonian side that allowed them to move onto the final.
Moving from the first half to the second, they remained full of calmness and determination. Real Madrid was not shaken, but overtime easily broke down and the goals came pouring in for Barcelona.
The link-up between Suarez and Dembele was a deserving goal for Barcelona but the own goal from Varane was another bit of misfortune.
Then the Frenchman was injured in the process and left the home side down a man which lead to Casemiro having no choice but to take down Suarez, leading to the third goal.
The substitutes chosen by Solari again on paper should have been okay. Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Fede Valverde all have the abilities to make a difference in important games but failed to do so.
Real Madrid finished the game mentally drained and all three substitutes plus the other seven players looked like they desperately wanted to get off the pitch.
Barcelona for the full 90 minutes did not lack any focus and were rewarded because of it.
If one of the early chances went in, or maybe if the team remained in a solid formation, the final result could have been drastically different.
It’s not to say the team played badly because overall the statistics were very good but luck just wasn’t on Solari’s side and unfortunately, the title is no longer achievable.
Looking forward, Real Madrid will hope to take revenge on their rivals in the league matchup.
The next match takes place at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, March 2, 2019, at 8:45 p.m. CET.