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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid 4-1 Barcelona

Real Madrid are Spanish Super Cup champions

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - Super Copa de España Final Photo by Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images

Real Madrid are Spanish Super Cup champions after a 4-1 thrashing of FC Barcelona, courtesy of a hat-trick from Vinícius Júnior and a fourth goal from his compatriot Rodrygo Goes to overpower Robert Lewandowski’s strike.

Three answers

1. Would Real Madrid get revenge for last year’s Super Cup Clásico?

12 months ago, Barcelona won a Super Cup final Clásico and hailed a new era of dominance under Xavi. They pointed to an ageing Real Madrid team as ending its chapter and making way for a new Catalan side to rule. A year on, Barcelona’s project is in tatters and Xavi’s future is uncertain while Real Madrid continue to dominate. They have proven once again that this Real Madrid team will continue to innovate and reinvent itself, and this revenge was sweet given the nature of it with the game seemingly settled within the first 10 minutes. The consequences will be where the difference is really made. Last season, Real Madrid reacted and got back to focusing on winning the Copa del Rey. This year, Barcelona will need to ensure that their ongoing capitulation is quickly halted.

2. Would we see Jude Bellingham back at his best like in the previous Clásico?

The form of Jude Bellingham in his past three outings has been one of the hot topics as he failed to score in three consecutive games for the first time. Alavés, Mallorca and Atlético all did a good job of keeping the English international quiet, denying him space in which to operate. It seemed as though Xavi was going to attempt the same with the double pívot and bizarre defensive unit that looked like a back three at times. Bellingham was not at his goalscoring best, but did test Iñaki Peña with three shots on target, and also caught the eye with the magnificent assist for Vinícius’ goal to open the scoring. It was a pass so good it deserved the accompanying finish. He also recorded a match-high of two completed dribbles and was in the thick of it, both winning more duels and losing more duels than anyone else.

3. Would Xavi or Carlo Ancelotti win the tactical battle?

Tactical tweaks have made a huge difference in Clásicos since Xavi was appointed Barcelona coach and this time it was Carlo Ancelotti who emerged victorious for the third consecutive time. This was the ninth time that the two coaches came head to head, with four wins each from the previous encounters before this one but with the Italian now ahead on head-to-head. Xavi made the mistake of continuing with his tactic of Ronald Araújo to stop Vinícius (which went so well that one ended with a red card and another with a hat-trick) and a high line which could have been effective if it were not for the past six months of Vini and Rodrygo running riot behind any high defensive line.

Three questions

1. Is there now a first-choice goalkeeper?

Following Kepa’s insecure display against Atlético Madrid in the semi-final, Ancelotti opted for Andriy Lunin between the sticks for the high-stake final and also confirmed that he would be the man to start against Atlético in the Copa del Rey on Thursday. Provided he sticks to his word, it’ll be the first back-to-back starts for the Ukrainian since early December. He made an impressive six saves and could do little about Robert Lewandowski’s goal which caught him out through a box full of bodies as it was hit from distance. If Lunin is to be first choice going forwards, it will principally be because of the kind of performances like this one that have filled Madridistas with confidence when he is the man in goal.

2. When did a player last score two goals so quickly in a Clásico?

This game was on the right track before the clock had even hit double digits, and that was all down to Vinícius Júnior. The Brazilian became the first man to score two goals inside the first 10 minutes in a Clásico since Gary Lineker did so for Barcelona in January 1987. The last time a Madridista pulled off the feat was even further back, April 1978, when Henning Jensen did it. It took the Brazilian 178 seconds to score his second after the first, the quickest difference between goals since Roque Olsen in October 1953. When he made it three, he matches his goal tally in 15 previous Clásicos and recorded a second Real Madrid hat-trick, following one against Levante in 2022. Never before had Vini turned up for the big occasion quite like this, but his timing was perfect.

3. How many titles can Real Madrid win this season?

This was the first title of 2023/24 for Real Madrid, and there are now three more available to be won. The Spanish Super Cup is the least important of all, but any Madridista knows the importance of gaining momentum and getting that winning feeling. Even more so as the next competition, the Copa del Rey, could be decided as soon as Thursday as Real Madrid face a tricky visit across the capital to take on Atlético. The fixture congestion will remain relentless, but confidence is now sky high and these players will want more of that taste of sweet success. This is a third Spanish Super Cup in five years, the best run in the competition since winning it in three consecutive years between 1989 and 1991, though there was no final in 1990 as Los Blancos won a league and cup double.

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