The El Clasico Trilogy - Part 2: Barcelona Eliminates Real Madrid From the Cup
Barcelona came out triumphant in the second game of this El Clasico Trilogy with a massive 3-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. However, don’t be deceived by that score, there was much more to this game then the score suggests. As awkward as it may sound, I believe this was one of Real Madrid’s best performances of the season. They were undoubtedly the better team in the first half and even for large parts of the second half until Barcelona got the second goal that put the game away. Barcelona were very clinical on the day as they scored just about every chance they got.
As was the case in the first leg Real Madrid started the game on the front foot. They were in control for the most of the first half, moving the ball well and creating a number of very good chances. Vinicius in particular was extremely dangerous and had three good chances that he was unable to finish. Barcelona’s impact on the first half was minimal as they failed to record a single shot. They were limited to a few relatively short stints of possession and a couple dangerous advances by Dembele on the left side that did not end up materializing into anything dangerous. Real Madrid were certainly the happier team going into the break, although they were likely somewhat disappointed to not have anything to show for their efforts with the score being tied at zero.
The opening goal came early in the second half. Dembele made a good run down the left wing and then cut the ball back to an oncoming Suarez who put away a well struck low driven shot at the near post. Ramos maybe could have done a little better with his challenge to prevent Suarez from getting the shot off, but to say the goal was Ramos’ fault would be harsh. After the goal Real Madrid continued to get forward and look dangerous. However, in the 70th minute Barcelona’s second goal came which put the game beyond Real Madrid’s reach. Dembele whipped in a dangerous low cross from the right side that Varane deflected into his own goal. There was not much Varane could have done as he was at full stretch trying to reach the cross and if he had not deflected it Suarez would have had an easy tap in. The third goal for Barcelona came only two minutes later. Suarez won a clear penalty as Casemiro stomped on his foot trying to get the ball. To add insult to injury Suarez dispatched a Panenka which did not go down well with the Real Madrid supporters. Nothing notable happened after the third goal as the outcome of the game was decided.
Barcelona demonstrated ruthless efficiency in front of goal to win the game. They finished the game with a total of only 4 shots, 2 of which were on target, but still managed to score 3 goals (1 goal was an own goal which explains why they had more goals then shots on target). Ter Stegen deserves enormous praise for his performance. He made several world class saves that kept Barcelona from going behind. This is yet another example of why he has been undoubtedly among the top 3 goalies in the world over the last couple of seasons. Another player that obviously deserves plenty of praise for his performance was Suarez who scored two of Barcelona’s goals and forced the other goal. He came into this game on relatively poor form, but he came up big when Barcelona needed him most. This performance should give him confidence as we enter the final part of the season. Messi had a relatively quiet El Clasico by his standards.
For Real Madrid most of their players played well. However, two players stood out above the rest, Reguilon and Vinicius. After the first leg I had hoped that Reguilon would start ahead of Marcelo and he certainly did not disappoint. He was superb going forward, making many dangerous runs and linking up very well with Vinicius on the left side. He was unfortunate to not get a goal as Ter Stegen made a spectacular save to keep out his header. It is early to say but Reguilon seems to have what it takes to be Marcelo’s long term successor and continue Real Madrid’s lineage of world class left backs that started with Roberto Carlos. Vinicius put in yet another brilliant performance in a big game. When he has space to run into at speed with the ball at his feet he is simply unstoppable. Barcelona had a very difficult time trying to contain him as he was able to use his pace and dribbling to create many good chances. All that was lacking was the finishing, but once he improves that aspect of his game I believe he will quickly become one of the best players in the world. Modric, Casemiro, Vazquez and Benzema also had good performances for Real Madrid.
With this win Barcelona advances to their sixth Copa Del Rey final in a row. In the final they will face Valencia who defeated Real Betis 3-2 on aggregate in the other semi-final. Barcelona will be favorites in the final but Valencia should not be underestimated. Valencia have several good players and despite a slow start in La Liga they have recently picked up form. The two teams have played against each other twice this season with both games ending as a draw.
The final game of this trilogy will take place on March 2nd and will once again be played at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. This game will be played in La Liga where 1st place Barcelona holds a 7 point lead over 2nd place Atletico Madrid and a 9 point lead over 3rd place Real Madrid. Barcelona will certainly be confident going into this game as they hold a healthy lead atop the La Liga standings and are coming off another big El Clasico victory. The Real Madrid players must be very demoralized after this game, having played so well but still losing by such a significant margin. However, they must be motivated to win this upcoming El Clasico after having already suffered two massive defeats this season at the hands of Barcelona.