Real Madrid delivered a masterclass of attacking football as they thrashed Barcelona 4-1 in the Super Cup final on Sunday night. Carlo Ancelotti’s men proved they are the best team in Spain as they exposed Barcelona’s high line with the pace and skill of their front three - Jude Bellingham, Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Junior.
Bellingham, whose through ball unlocked the game’s opening goal, was impossible to stop despite not getting on the scoresheet. Playing in a deeper role, he was everywhere defensively, and his dribbling in tight spaces brought the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ of the crowd in Riyadh. His game was complete, in every sense of the word.
Barcelona’s main problem was two-fold: 1) Real Madrid were too good, too efficient; and 2) Xavi’s tactical plan played right into Carlo Ancelotti’s hands.
Barcelona’s defense has been shambolic all season, and even last season, according to how much they over-performed their xGA (expected goals against), it was clear that their defensive record was only good in part because their opponents missed chances and Ter Stegen was making miraculous saves.
This season, Ter Stegen has been out injured, and one of their defensive pillars, Ronald Araujo, has been in poor form — and continued to be poor all game in the Super Cup final.
To tie it all together, Barcelona held a suicidally-high defensive line which Bellingham, Vinicius, and Rodrygo fully exposed.
Look at Barca's line at 2 - 0 down. They are begging for it. Please punish them. pic.twitter.com/qD4b2JXtm8— Managing Madrid (@managingmadrid) January 14, 2024
Brilliant all around. Give Jude and Vinicius a high line to face and they're too good to not exploit that. Pass was perfect. Composure from Vinicius awesome.— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) January 14, 2024
Still, focusing on Barcelona’s disastrous performance discredits Real Madrid, who were brilliant in every aspect of the game apart from a phase in the first half where Robert Lewandowski scored.
“We wanted to win and we did it with merit,” Carlo Ancelotti said in the post-match press conference. “We didn’t start very well, but we found Vinícius in an extraordinary moment and, from there, another one started. Barcelona managed the ball, looked for opportunities and, until 4-1, it was open. We tried to control it, without pressing too high. It was a complete match and we are very happy.”
Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez admitted his team were outclassed by Real Madrid and said they need to improve their defence and their mentality.
“I want to apologise to the fans,” Xavi said. “We weren’t the team we wanted to be. We have to carry on working.”
“The way we started the game affected us a lot. We gave away far too much. We weren’t pressing properly, but the penalty hit us very hard. We simply weren’t up to the level required of a competition like this. We’re furious with ourselves and we need to improve a lot if we are going to fight for titles this season.”