In an interview with MARCA, former Real Madrid player and Castilla coach Alvaro Benito previewed El Clasico on a more tactical level. Benito, who is now a football analyst for Movistar, also spoke about some challenges of fitting Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland together next season, and more. Here are some of the quotes we found most relevant for you to enjoy.
“Surely, quite equal,” Benito said when asked about how he thinks El Clasico will go. “Barça has improved a lot in these last three weeks. I think that Xavi is showing clearly what he wants from his team, what he wants to turn it into: without the ball he is very aggressive, lots of pressing, very hard-working, very organized. Then, with the ball, the growth has also been very great when it comes to getting out of the pressure and, above all, being very vertical when it has to be. He doesn’t mess around too much with the ball.
“Real Madrid arrive at an excellent time, full of regularity. They have shown it throughout the championship and they come from an extraordinary emotional game after what they experienced with PSG. It is true that there is a big advantage in the League, but I think that the two teams arrive very well in terms of football.
“This season, Ancelotti has been able to detect what the team needed at all times. He tried, at the beginning of the season, to be a more active team in pressing, defending higher. But he realized that they were not doing well there. He changed drastically, the team became much more passive and defensive, with the block much lower, closer to Courtois. And it started working great. Madrid stopped conceding goal situations. They became a very solid team and exploited a lot in transition with Vinicius and Benzema, who have had an extraordinary season. But in the match at the Parc des Princes, he proved that against very, very top teams, with great individuals, he can’t do that. You have to be a little more aggressive. Since that day we have seen a Real Madrid that has changed again: it is much more aggressive in pressing, it goes looking for the rival and has changed again. We will see what skin he puts on in El Clasico, because it was good for him to be more passive in the Super Cup, allowing Barcelona to dominate and penalizing them in each transition. We will see. I think there will be alternatives. Real Madrid will play different games within it.”
Should Fede Valverde start in Clasico?
“He is a player who, in the context of a withdrawn rival, does not give you as much as players with such good footing as Kroos and Modric. But in open field matches, the days of truth against strong rivals, in the last rounds of the Champions League or against Barça, Fede helps you when it comes to defending, activating that pressure, breaking lines with his driving and with how physically exuberant she is. He contributes a lot. In these types of matches he gives much more than in the others.”
On the greatness of Luka Modric
“The truth is that he exceeds all the words we can say about him. He is a fighter. When he arrived, it was not easy for him. It took him a few months to earn the position, to be a starter. Luka Modric was not the player we see now, he was not that complete, he was just a quality midfielder, with his appearances and his disappearances. He has become a hammer: he plays and makes others play, he defends, runs, scores goals, assists... An absolutely total footballer who does not negotiate effort one bit. Every time he is in the field he works hard. He is going to leave an impossible void to fill, that of one of the best midfielders my eyes have seen. A legend. It is wonderful to see him, and not only for what he contributes as a footballer. He is an example of competitiveness, of mentality... I remember last year. People don’t remember this: There was a moment when Zidane put Valverde ahead of Modric, including the Camp Nou. Luka was given 15 minutes at the end. He went out and worked his ass off as if he were a kid who has everything to prove. He didn’t say: with the status I have, that I’m a Ballon d’Or, I have to be a starter. That is the key: knowing how to suffer.”
Benito also spoke about many other things, including the evolution of Benzma, Pedri and Vinicius, Barcelona’s growth under Xavi, the greatness of Kylian Mbappe and more. One interesting part was when he spoke about the challenge of fitting Erling Haaland, Mbappe, Benzema, and Vinicius together:
“Damn problem [ Laughs ]! It’s a wonderful attack, but it is also true that a football team has to make sense. It is not a sum of cards. We have the example of PSG. It is not easy to win even though you have the best of all times. Perhaps of those four there would be one left over. But how are you going to kill one? It will be very difficult for this to have a collective sense and tactical rigor. I’m sure Pochettino was thinking: I wish he could put Di María in there. This is a collective sport and much more so in football today. The distances are minuscule and having one or two players, let alone three, who may not give you 100% in terms of defensive rigor, makes you suffer. It is proven in recent years. The Champions League has been won from the collective: Chelsea, Bayern, Liverpool...”