The first El Clasico of the season is done and Real Madrid have earned the bragging rights in La Liga, for now. A dominant first 45 from Barcelona was undone by the talismanic presence of Jude Bellingham. The youngster scored a brace in the second half as Real Madrid managed to snatch all three points away from home against their biggest rivals.
Real Madrid’s highlight this season has been the performance of their midfielders. Whether it is Bellingham’s goalscoring exploits, Eduardo Camavinga’s versatility, Aurelien Tchouameni’s defensive prowess or Toni Kroos and Luka Modric’s class, Los Blancos are stacked in their midfield department. The contingent in the middle of the park has in the past dragged Madrid out of tough situations and it looks set to do that in the near future.
Let’s take a look at the performances of some of the standout midfielders from El Clasico and break down their impact on the team.
Kopa trophy winner Jude Bellingham is the man of the moment. A player with a seemingly golden touch who can do no wrong. The Englishman has had a dreamy start to his Madrid career and the dream run continued away against Barcelona as he scored twice to complete a comeback against the Blaugranas.
The 20-year-old has been a center-piece under Carlo Ancelotti this season. He leads the charts for goals scored but his influence on the pitch transcends his visible impact in the opposition box. Bellingham’s front foot defending has been spectacular all season and it showed against in El Clasico as the English midfielder had a flawless record on his defensive actions.
His quality on the ball is undeniable. The former Borussia Dortmund man can wiggle his way through tight defences and has shown flashes of some excellent combination play in the final third with Madrid this season. He positions himself in-between the lines to act as a vertical outlet. His constant lateral movements in the final third make it hard for the opposition to track him and mark him out of the game.
But we can’t talk about the Birmingham prodigy without mentioning his most tangible contribution in the white shirt: his goalscoring. While his goalscoring exploits might seem lucky on the surface, there’s an undertone of repeatability to them.
One of the reasons why Bellingham’s goal exploits feel sustainable despite expected goals and volume suggesting otherwise is down to his movements. While the second goal can be called out for being lucky, that fortune was actually not gifted, but rather made by the Englishman’s movements in the first place.
A quick look at Madrid’s second goal against Barcelona reveals his instincts to attack the box as soon as the ball is moved wide. He is consistently seen positioning himself in zones where the ball is most likely to fall. This might not always register a touch or a shot but it gives him a very good chance to scoring a goal. These instincts coupled with his movements are the repeatable aspect of his goalscoring exploits which makes it sustainable.
“real madrid don’t play anything”— Orlando (@starboyorlando_) November 1, 2023
jude bellingham’s 2nd goal vs barca:
Bellingham has already equalled Zinedine Zidane’s goal tally in his best ever season and 25 goals seems very achievable this season for the prodigy from Birmingham.
Eduardo Camavinga has been a game-changer for Madrid ever since signing for the Spanish side. The midfielder has produced some spectacular performances in midfield, and also from his less preferred role at left-back. He has firmly established himself as the Swiss army knife of the squad.
Camavinga’s introduction was forced, due to an injury to Ferland Mendy, but the Frenchman didn’t skip a beat. His on-ball qualities and dribbling ability comes in super handy in evading opposition press as was evident by his roulette after entering the game. His ability to take on players near the touchline is impressive, allowing him to progress possession higher up the field.
In his limited time of the pitch, Camavinga created two chances, helped break through Barcelona’s suffocating press and provided defensive stability with his wide zone of control.
One of the best midfielders? One of the best left-backs? Camavinga is class in every position he plays.
One thing you get with Valverde is work rate, without a shadow of doubt. Valverde has carved an identity for himself by playing three roles at the same time in a single game. The Uruguayan international was almost playing as the right-back in a back five against Barcelona, dropping outside of Dani Carvajal to help him neutralise the threat of Alejandro Balde.
His four ball recoveries in that defensive third near the right touchline showcase this nugget quite evidently. His ball carries to gobble space through the middle of the park, breaking opposition lines are a weapon on transition. His shape-shifting performances as the right-central midfielder to provide defensive cover on the flanks against the ball and width in possession make him indispensable.
His five progressive carries were the highest in the game while his three progressive passes was only behind passing maestro Toni Kroos (six) in the game. He successfully completed every single one of his defensive action on top of his on-ball shenanigans.
Pajarito is one of the more relentless players in the squad who plays with his heart on his sleeves. His defensive output, along with his tireless nature make him a delight for every manager and make him adaptable to every system.
Modric has long been our go-to man for big nights. Be it the La Decima, the semi-final second leg against Atletico Madrid in the UCL or multiple other key performances against big sides. While the Croatian midfielder isn’t impacting games in a starting role for Madrid this season, his presence on the field is palpable.
The 38-year-old once again brought a sense of calm when he stepped on the field, controlling the game before the chaos ensued. Modric ensured Madrid kept the ball and created threat with it in the closing minutes of the game. Only Vinicius Jr (six) recorded more deep completions than the Ballon d’Or winning midfielder.
Even with reduced minutes, Modric is still a key part of Madrid’s gameplan. His ability to kill games while holding onto a lead, to absorb pressure from the opposition and bite back in those end-to-end moments is impeccable. His presence overall is a positive influence on the young crop who are still fine-tuning their craft.
Real Madrid’s midfield is spectacular and has arguably some of the best young midfielders in the game. Their midfield composition allows Los Blancos to solve various in-game situations, dominate possession, and control the tempo according to their needs. This midfield royalty is Madrid’s biggest stream.