Real Madrid have lost a third Clásico in a row to Xavi’s Barcelona and this 2-1 defeat will particularly sting given that Marco Asensio had a late goal disallowed for offside before Franck Kessie struck in stoppage time to win the game for Barcelona and, essentially, the league title too. There is a lot to discuss, so here comes a look at the answers to the pre-match questions we had and also some new questions this defeat has thrown up.
1. How different would this Clásico be to the Copa del Rey first leg?
When the line-up came out, the main headline was that this was the same line-up from the Liverpool game on Wednesday. It was actually also the exact same starting XI from the 1-0 loss to Barça in the Copa del Rey first leg. But, would it be a similar type of game to that cup tie, when Real Madrid dominated and had 65% possession but zero shots on target? Ahead of tonight’s match, Ancelotti said: “Barcelona defended deep in the last game, but they had scored early and had a lead to defend. Maybe if we score early then it would be an opposite kind of game.” And, this time it was indeed Real Madrid who scored an early own goal. That might be one of the reasons why this Clásico was nothing like the Copa one, along with so many other factors. Barcelona edged the possession stats this time, with 54% for them, while Real Madrid produced three shots on target this time, in addition to the cross for the own goal. It certainly was a different kind of Clásico.
2. Would Vinícius actually move around more?
In the past few Clásicos, we’ve seen Ronald Araújo lock down Vinícius and this has been a major problem for Real Madrid. Ancelotti made some interesting comments about this in his pre-match press conference and stated that the Brazilian would be more mobile in this game, not stuck on the left quite as much. But, that wasn’t actually the case. In fact, Vinícius average position tonight was even closer to the left sideline than it had been in any of the other three Clásicos where Araújo had played at right-back. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Vinícius was one of Real Madrid’s most dangerous players throughout the game and provoked the opening goal off Araújo, but he certainly wasn’t as mobile as Ancelotti had promised pre-match.
3. How much would Real Madrid go for the win?
Of all the pre-match questions we had, the main one was simple. Would Real Madrid win? They simply had to win, as a draw wasn’t going to be enough, since that would leave the gap to Barça at nine points. So, would Real Madrid approach the game the right way, giving everything to win? Well, to be fair to them, they certainly did push in the final 15 minutes, Real Madrid really went for it following the triple sub on the 75th minute and had the ball in the back of the net through Asensio, one of the attacking substitutes who came on. That was disallowed, but they kept pushing. This did, of course, leave space for Barcelona at the other end and that’s how the home side were able to score their late winner. But, Real Madrid certainly can’t be accused of settling for the draw.
1. Was Asensio offside?
Offside is supposed to be objective, but many associated with Real Madrid are suggesting that Marco Asensio wasn’t offside for the disallowed goal. Even Ancelotti said that the team are returning to Madrid “with doubts”. The truth is that the lines on the image provided by the refereeing team to the broadcasting team were chunky and confusing, but other more accurate images show that Asensio was indeed offside. Maybe it’s time to bring in the semi-automatic offside system that we saw at the World Cup.
Hay claro fuera de juego en el gol de Marco Asensio que De Burgos Bengoetxea anula tras consultar al VAR. pic.twitter.com/hdiphXEdWe— Fran Martínez (@LaLigaenDirecto) March 19, 2023
2. Will Ancelotti start rotating in LaLiga?
With his post-match comments, Ancelotti refused to state that the title race is over, but that’s completely normal because the coach can never admit that publicly. Privately, he too knows it’s done. But, when he stated that “we’ll give our all in every game over the rest of the season”, is that actually going to be the case? Or will he start to give players some rest on the weekends, given that the midweeks now bring Real Madrid’s most important remaining games of the season, in the Champions League and the Copa del Rey second leg? The logical thing to do now would be to take it easy in the league fixtures, but Ancelotti isn’t necessarily the kind of coach to do that.
3. How fit was Benzema?
Ancelotti stated that Benzema had recovered and was 100 percent fit for this game, but that clearly wasn’t true. So, how fit is Benzema really right now? 80 percent? 70 percent? Less? Even though the Frenchman is the current Ballon d’Or holder, he doesn’t need to be playing every single game and especially not if he isn’t fit. We’ve seen earlier in the season that Real Madrid could cope fine without him, and they’ve actually got a 71 percent win record for games without Benzema this season compared to a 66 percent win record for games with Benzema. He needs a rest and, if the coaching staff isn’t going to give him one, at least the international break has arrived to allow him some time to recover properly.