Barcelona punished a relaxed Real Madrid
If you look at the score and the statistics for the first hour of the game, you can imagine that Barcelona was totally dominant from the start. But it wasn’t. It had to go through the early part of the game to gain the initiative. And there the situation could have turned any way it wanted. Remember Valverde’s strike in the seventh minute when Ter Stegen saved. But Barcelona were better prepared psychologically and better set up.
Gradually, it began to tilt the advantage in its favor, revealing Real’s problems with concentration and sharpness. In this period, the battlefield was the middle line, where by the end of the half hour three players in both teams had a yellow card each – Kroos, Busquets and de Jong. Despite “losing” on the cards, Barcelona won the center of the pitch dynamically, which Ancelotti had to admit by removing Kroos at half-time and letting Camavanga in.
Winning the middle line provided the Catalans with the necessary springboard for preparing and carrying out dangerous attacks, allowed them to connect the attack with the midfield and find space, free zones in the formation of Real Madrid. But there were a lot of holes.
Everything was falling apart
Having lost to Barcelona in sharpness, in mobility, Real surrendered the next bastion – the reliability of defense. It is possible, after all, to endure, to hold on and to prick at the decisive moment. But you need a strong backline for that. And Real Madrid were deprived of it. Dembele got away from Nacho on the flank as he headed in Obameyang for his first goal. Pierre-Emerick easily found space between Alaba and Eder, scoring. By the way, ten minutes later the Catalans repeated the trick, but already from a corner, which is even more disgraceful for a defense of this level. Only this time, Araujo found himself between Alaba and Eder who sealed Dembele’s cross. It was a high cross, but both Real Madrid central defenders simply lost a dangerous opponent.
Confusion and lack of concentration were evident everywhere in the actions and behavior of the Real Madrid players. The bewildered and almost crying faces of Vinicius and Eder made a decent video clip. And the awkward fall of Júnior, who miscalculated with the moment of pushing away in someone else’s penalty area and literally dived on ter Stegen, instead of tripping over him as he had planned, looked as comical as possible. And also emphasized the confusion.
Continued disintegration and pre-game mode
Ancelotti is an experienced and wise coach, but even he couldn’t do anything about the team’s psychological lack of attitude. He rebuilt the scheme at halftime when he released Mariano Diaz in addition to Kamawinga. But emotional problems exacerbated the lack of understanding of the new scheme. There’s no other way to explain how Torres was missed twice in a few minutes, leaving the center of defense. Once he forgave, the second time he didn’t.
Well, the apotheosis was the fourth goal, when everyone stopped fighting, reacting to the raised flag of the side referee, and Aubameyang finished the moment just in case and scored, despite being offside. But the EAR showed that there was no offside and the goal was legitimate. Emotional attempts of the Real players to show the referee that they stopped because the linesman raised the flag, are quite unconvincing – the referee showed everyone that they should react only to the whistle, and not to any other circumstances. Another testament to Real’s psychological disconnect. After the fourth goal, things went into replay mode.
This mode can be recognized by the statistics, by the substitutions, and by the content of the game. There was no tension in it, because everyone understood the outcome, but there were still enough scoring chances. Everyone just realized that the outcome of one or two of these episodes would not change anything.
The psychological burden fell off and the game became a series of missed chances, perceived at the level of training. Some will say that Real Madrid lacked Benzema. The main reason for Madrid’s failure, however, was that they were not properly tuned for the game against a resurgent Barcelona.
Five consecutive victories in the El Clasico, or a confident breakaway in La Liga, or the dashing demolition of PSG in the Champions League – all of these, or some of them separately, contributed to Real Madrid not paying the right amount of respect and attention to this battle. And for Barcelona, it was a landmark and underlined the new status of Xavi’s team – now there are questions even about the fate of the championship race, despite Madrid’s large lead. How a local psychological breakdown would not turn into a global one.