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Immediate Reaction: Barcelona 1 - 3 Real Madrid

Real Madrid seal an entertaining Clasico with a huge win

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Barcelona 1 - 3 Real Madrid (Fati; Valverde, Ramos, Modric). Here’s our quick reaction upon the final whistle. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, post-game quotes, and plenty more analysis.

There were a handful of questions heading into this Clasico, perhaps none more pertaining than: ‘Who would Zinedine Zidane start as Real Madrid’s wingbacks?’ Without going through the exercising of cycling all of those options more than we’ve already have in the days building up to this game, there is one point to make: No option was ideal, and every option had its risk. Without Dani Carvajal, the team loses a leader and a solid (and often underrated) two-way presence. Whoever was to take that assignment would need help dealing with Ansu Fati as well as the bombing runs of Jordi Alba (who was initially a question mark).

Nacho was the chosen one, and unfortunately for him, his night ended after just 43 minutes after being forced off with a niggle. Lucas Vazquez entered. Zidane was down to his fourth-choice right-back.

It is interesting to see how Real Madrid did with Vazquez on the field. With Nacho there, the team struggled defending the ball over top of him, and Fati enjoyed running at Nacho. (It did bring back bad flashbulb memories of the 5-1 at the Camp Nou in 2018, where Nacho also started in that role and couldn’t cope.)

Vazquez has tendencies to play like a winger when he plays at right-back, but did really well to stay in position when he entered the field. He covered well, picked Messi’s pocket when the Argentine sized him up on one sequence, and provided really good offense with cut-in dribbles, through-balls, counter-pressing, and pin-point crosses.

Defensively as a whole, Real Madrid went through a rollercoaster with plenty of dips and peaks. They did not press to start, and their defensive shape was vulnerable — but towards the end of the first half, they held possession and dialled up their counter-pressing, making it uncomfortable for Barcelona to get a foot-hold of the ball.

From Barcelona’s perspective, their first half was a mixed bag too. The pressure they put on Real Madrid coming out of the back forced Casemiro and Raphael Varane into several giveaways. They did not dominate possession, but did get the ball to Fati and Alba in good positions. Messi, as always, made his surgical runs. Pedri on the right flank was largely uninvolved, and came off in the 82nd minute — as part of a triple sub which saw Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, and Francisco Trincao also come in.

Offensively, Real Madrid got forward when they could. You could argue they should’ve done more. Marco Asensio was a passenger for the majority of the first half, until the 36th minute where he made his first surgical run with the ball in transition and broke Barcelona. Before half-time he had another good offensive run. Real Madrid needed that from him sooner, though they did eventually get him to wake up. Vinicius on the opposite flank moved well off the ball and got on the end of a couple great chances (one point blank that should’ve made it 2-0 within the first few minutes). Vinicius’s passing in transition was poor in the second half, it should be noted.

Toni Kroos’s distribution and ability to deal with pressure, along with the movement of Fede Valverde and Karim Benzema, was integral in Real Madrid’s ball progression on almost every attacking sequence.

These are the two goals that made it 1 - 1 after eight minutes:

The second half was a whirlwind, capping a really great entertaining Clasico. Barcelona started stronger and had more of the ball, but Real Madrid rode the wave and started to influence themselves with great chances in transition. Sergio Ramos scored a penalty and Luka Modric sealed the game late:

A much needed win over Barcelona makes for a great Saturday. Enjoy the weekend, and enjoy the podcast tonight — we have a big one planned.

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