In anticipation of the world’s most hotly contested football rivalry, El Clásico between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, speculation about whether Argentine superstar Messi would start or even grace the Barcelona bench with his presence dominated most conversations on the latest installment of the Spanish derby. The match separated the La Liga powerhouses by three points at the top of the league table, but long before the final whistle blew, Barcelona maintained its top position with a 0-4 win over Los Blancos at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu
While Los Blancos fans made their disdain for manager Rafael Benítez evident as they called for Chelsea manager José Mourinho in their songs, Barcelona reveled in a stunning performance. Real Madrid struggled on defense to stop the Barcelona surge, while creating very little themselves on attack.
Keys to the Match
Man of the Match – Neymar
Captain Andrés Iniesta’s beautiful goal in the 53’ minute, his first of the season, made him a fan favorite, but Neymar’s greater total contribution made him the man of the match. Neymar’s single goal of the match came in the 39th minute assisted by Iniesta, and just 14 minutes later, Neymar would return the favor with a back heel pass to the Spaniard for a blast into the top corner. The 23-year-old striker created a total of six chances – three of them big chances, tying for most big chances created in a single match this season in La Liga. The Brazilian had the most successful passes to the final third (24/27) and a 91% pass completion rate over all.
Barcelona’s offense created a total of seven big chances to score 4 goals – goals are shown in green circles above, and the size of the circle represents the quality of the chance: Suarez (11’ and 74’), Neymar (39’) and Iniesta (53’). Messi’s ultimate entrance at the 60th minute with a three-goal lead was a mere display of privilege by the Catalans. In his 33 minutes on the pitch, Messi managed more successful passes (15/20) in the final third than every other Real Madrid player except Modric (18/22) By comparison, Real Madrid’s offense created only one single big chance via Gareth Bale, and had a few other opportunities but couldn’t get past Bravo
Real Madrid’s defense
Los Merengues sorely missed the defensive prowess of Brazilian Casemiro and were pounded on the right side by his compatriot Neymar Jr. Luka Modric was Real’s best defender of the night, but his 22 defensive actions were simply not enough.. Frustration late in the game reduced Real to ten men in the 84th minute when Isco saw red following a challenge on Neymar.
The few near-challenges to come close to Claudio Bravo’s net were handled swiftly by the Chilean goalkeeper. Bravo saved all of Madrid’s seven shots on target (saves shown as blue dots above), including a show stopping save on a point blank header from Cristiano Ronaldo in the final minutes of the game, keeping a clean slate through the end.
Originally published on Univision Deportes at: http://www.univision.com/deportes/futbol/la-liga/el-real-madrid-incapaz-de-frenar-el-ataque-del-barcelona