Real Madrid produced a Clásico comeback for the ages, winning 4-0 at the Camp Nou thanks to a Vinícius opener and Benzema hat-trick. That made it 4-1 on aggregate and means Real Madrid will meet Osasuna in the Copa del Rey final on May 6th. There is so much to discuss, from the pre-match questions that were answered to the doubts we now have following this semi-final victory.
1. Goals, complete performance or both?
On the eve of this Clásico, Ancelotti angered many Madridistas with his comments during the pre-match press conference. While fans wanted the coach to promise all-out attack from minute one, he urged patience. “We can’t go crazy in search of the goal, so our approach is to have a complete performance and not to score goals,” he said. While that rhetoric wasn’t what the fans wanted to hear, the players understood it perfectly. In other words, Ancelotti was telling his team to simply keep this tie alive for as long as possible. That’s what the first half was all about, as Barça, urged on by the home crowd, went for Real Madrid and tried to kill this tie off. But, Real Madrid dug deep and put in an ugly-but-necessary first-half performance just to stay within one goal. Then, having done that, they could do what Real Madrid do in two-legged knockout ties, which is seize the moment and take their chances. After scoring one just before half time, the rest followed. So, Ancelotti got his complete performance, and the goals came too. Just as he promised.
2. Was Benzema really back?
There was a much more positive feeling about Benzema coming into this game, given that he’d produced such an impressive hat-trick against Real Valladolid on Sunday. But, was that just because it was Valladolid or was Benzema really back? Well, we saw at the Camp Nou that it’s the latter. Pretty much everything Benzema touched turned to gold, hitting four of his five shots on target and scoring with three of them. Benzema is back, and Chelsea – who he scored four against across the two legs of last season’s tie – are on the horizon.
3. Would Ancelotti’s prediction to Arrasate come true?
Given that Real Madrid were playing the second semi-final, they already knew who was awaiting the victor, as Osasuna had defeated Athletic Club on Tuesday. So, would Ancelotti’s prediction come true, after he joked with Osasuna coach Jagoba Arrasate in February that they’d meet again in the Copa del Rey final? Well, yes. That has come true. The Italian reiterated after the game that his comment to the Osasuna boss was just a joke at the time, but now it’s reality. For the first time ever, it’s Real Madrid vs Osasuna in a Copa del Rey final and that will take place in Seville on May 6th.
Ancelotti joked in February with Osasuna coach Arrasate that the Copa del Rey final would be Real Madrid vs Osasuna. Carletto was right. They meet on May 6th. pic.twitter.com/8JmqS3Rk5r— Euan McTear (@emctear) April 5, 2023
1. When did Real Madrid last thrash Barcelona by four?
After Benzema’s penalty on the hour mark, it was clear that Real Madrid were going to win this tie. Barcelona had no response and, given their many injuries, their bench wasn’t going to provide the tools for a miraculous comeback. But, Real Madrid fans wanted more than just a 3-0 win and passage to the final. They wanted a fourth. They wanted blood. They wanted a big victory, the kind of which Los Blancos have rarely achieved or even seemed to want in Clásicos over the past few years. In fact, just how long had it been since Real Madrid had beaten Barça by four? Not since 1995 had Real Madrid won a Clásico by four goals or more, but that’s what they ultimately managed here. To put that into context, this Wednesday’s 4-0 was Real Madrid’s largest Clásico win in the lifetimes of Camavinga, Rodrygo, Vinícius, Tchouaméni, Valverde, Militão, Ceballos and Asensio. A Clásico win this big had been long overdue.
2. Wasn’t Camavinga supposed to only play left-back in emergencies?
Let’s talk about Eduardo Camavinga. He was once again one of the best performers on the pitch, if not the best, completing all 32 of his passes and winning all eight of his tackles. He shut down Raphinha and also contributed in attack. This was exactly what Real Madrid needed from the left-back position. But, wasn’t Camavinga only supposed to be an option at left-back in emergency situations? In other words, when there were no other options there? Although Mendy is out injured just now, Nacho or David Alaba could perfectly have played left-back tonight. So, is Camavinga now being selected at left-back even in non-emergency situations? Ancelotti’s post-match press conference words said that this isn’t the case, but his actions clearly show that Camavinga is now considered a potential left-back option for every game.
3. Does winning the Copa del Rey keep Ancelotti in his job?
This was a big night for Ancelotti. The Italian had received so much criticism in recent weeks, unfairly so in this author’s option, yet he kept a cool head and kept his squad on board. Real Madrid have now pulled off a comeback for the ages and have an excellent chance to win their first Copa del Rey since 2014, back when Ancelotti was in charge previously. Assuming Real Madrid win the 2022/23 Copa del Rey, but not LaLiga or the Champions League, will that success, along with the Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup, be enough to keep Ancelotti in place until 2023/24? Considering the euphoric manner of this semi-final comeback, it might just do be enough for him to stay on.