Real Madrid fell to defeat to Barcelona in their first pre-season fixture of the 2022/23 campaign as Raphinha struck just before the half-hour mark. It would prove to be the winner as his fine effort beat Thibaut Courtois, and Real Madrid failed to score for a second consecutive Clásico.
It was evident that this game mattered more to Barcelona than to Real Madrid, providing them with an opportunity to put on a show as they welcomed Robert Lewandowski, whereas Carlo Ancelotti gave the captain’s armband to Lucas Vázquez.
Here are three stats which help to tell the tale of a Clásico in Las Vegas which provided a surprising level of intensity and a good work-out for Real Madrid’s first pre-season fixture.
15 - Fouls from a physical Barcelona side
This was a friendly in name only, especially for Barcelona. There’s no better example than the ruckus just before half-time which saw almost every player on the pitch involved, sparked by a shove from Rodrygo Goes on Sergio Busquets after a series of reckless tackles on Vinícius Júnior. If Barça thought they could intimidate this young Real Madrid side, the Brazilian pair were among those proving that they would not be bullied.
The Catalans struggled to live with the pace and dribbling of Vinícius in particular, and often resorted to fouls to bring him down. The introduction of Franck Kessie by Xavi only added to the physicality in the middle of the park in a battle which Real Madrid’s midfield did not get particularly involved in, which left the cynical cutting down of Real Madrid’s forwards as the focus point for their opponents.
In the second half, the game relaxed somewhat as substitutions lowered the pace and the tone, but the first half’s intensity was incredible to watch. In total, there were 15 fouls and four yellow cards for Barcelona, compared to six fouls and one yellow card for Real Madrid, in what can only be described as a heated friendly for much more than the 34°C/93.2°F temperature in Las Vegas.
1,143 - The number of days before Eden Hazard’s first Clásico
When Eden Hazard joined Real Madrid in June 2019, he probably wasn’t expecting to watch eight Clásicos from the sideline before he could actually get involved. He would probably have been even more surprised if you’d told him that his first Clásico would come in a friendly match in Las Vegas. Add in the fact that he’d be playing as a false nine and he might have needed treatment for shock.
It’s a role which we’ve seen plenty of in Real Madrid’s pre-season training sessions, but this match gave us a first opportunity to see it in a match scenario. The Belgian didn’t exactly shine, being easily handled by Barcelona, whose system favoured playing up against a false nine with former Chelsea team-mate Andreas Christensen happy to handle Hazard and pass him off to Sergio Busquets should he drop deeper.
Hazard did provide some nice link-up play, particularly later on in the game, but Real Madrid were evidently lacking a presence in the penalty box as Rodrygo in particular delivered cross after cross to find nobody in the area. Hazard is no poacher, but his absence in key areas typified his contribution to this fixture ever since he joined Los Blancos.
0 - Shots on target for Real Madrid
With no Karim Benzema, this game underlined Real Madrid fans’ biggest fear for the season ahead. Without the Frenchman, the team lacked any real attacking focal point or threat. There was plenty of creation, but moves would break down as soon as they reached the final third.
In total, Real Madrid had six attempts, but none of them hit the target. It was Fede Valverde who came closest as he rocked the woodwork with a thunderous strike from 20 yards out in the first half, reflecting the tendency to shoot from distance without a visible presence closer to goal to attempt to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
There were moments of threat from Real Madrid, such as Vinícius’ slaloming run before half-time, but many key attacking players were clearly lacking fitness. Across the 90 minutes, the best chance fell to Marco Asensio as Hazard laid him off in a good position early in the second half, but it fell onto his weaker left foot and his effort was weak and wayward. That left Valverde to pick up the slack with Real Madrid’s two other best chances, arriving late from deep to fire efforts close.