Barcelona secured a first victory over Real Madrid since 2019, dismantling the La Liga leaders 4-0 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, with goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (two), Ronald Araujo and Ferran Torres. Here are three thoughts on The classic:
1. Xavi transformed Barcelona
Xavi’s first game in charge at Barcelona came exactly four months ago, and in that time they’ve gone from ninth to third in La Liga, but just measuring that progress in numbers is understated. appreciate the impact it has had.
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He took a group broken in spirit and turned them into the confident unity we saw at the Bernabeu on Sunday. It’s not so much that he preaches traditional Barca values of possession, creativity and teamwork at the above the individual – many have done it before – – is that he lives, while allowing himself to make the kind of adjustments required by the modern game. Like playing a pure defender at right-back to contain the speedy Vinicius Junior rather than making the emotional choice to trot Dani Alves. Or play wingers like Torres and Ousmane Dembele, who interpret the game – and the position – in radically different ways. Or rebuilding the confidence of a centre-forward like Aubameyang – who has been suspended or unproductive since the summer at his former club, Arsenal – and turning him into an incredibly effective attacking threat.
This all came amid resignations from the club’s CEOs, doubts over the club’s solvency and, most recently, news that financial restrictions next season are likely to be as tight as they were this season, if not. more. the man should run for public office.
2. Ancelotti thinks outside the box and pays the price
With resident icon Karim Benzema unavailable, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti had two big options: he could keep his 4-3-3 setup and bring in another striker, be it a striker specialized like Mariano Diaz or Luka Jovic or a suitable striker like Marco. Asensio – or he could rip up his plan and throw a curveball at Barca, conjuring up a whole new pattern.
He opted for the latter, ending up with an unusual diamond shape that kept his wingers (Rodrygo and Vinicius) wide and left Luka Modric and at times Toni Kroos as his de facto front men down the middle. It was bold and it was original, and it was a disaster.
It was far too easy for Barca to break through the first line of pressure, leaving full control of the final third to Xavi’s side, playing directly into their hands. With a nine-point lead at the top of La Liga and a quarter Champions League final against Chelsea in two and a half weeks, you can afford to experiment a bit, but it has gone wrong and no one will want to revisit this approach.
3. Dembele’s decision still baffling
For all Barcelona’s dominance, it was Dembele who scored the opening goal, with a classic fake-inside-outside move on Nacho that left the defender rooted to the spot as he raced towards the backline and delivered an accurate cross for Aubameyang. Araujo’s header for the second came from one of the French brand’s laser-guided deliveries from a corner. He even helped set up the third.
When he’s like that, he’s almost unplayable. He’s one of the more two-footed players, with speed and quality aplenty. Of course, we also saw the downside, especially after he started to run out of steam after the break: giving away the ball. , not tracking effectively and getting an ear from Xavi before being substituted. But sometimes with superstars you have to live with the flip side.
Dembele becomes a free agent on June 30. Negotiations are no further advanced. Barca have a new financial reality to deal with; Dembele can feel like he’s worth more, and if he can deliver a first half every week like the one we saw against Madrid, he’s worth it. He’s 24 and, when Ansu Fati returns from injury, he could be one half of a devastating pair of wingers for the next decade. On the other hand, he’s never made more than 22 league starts in a season, due to a string of injuries, and you want to think long and hard before making him the club’s highest-paid player. there’s a huge call to be made here, and Barca can’t afford to be wrong.