Written by Arjit
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El Clásico 2020/21
Gear Up Folks !! It’s Clásico Time !! It’s Barca Vs Madrid !!
It’s arguably the biggest spectacle in the current setting of European football. The fixture has always been a high stakes affair as two Spanish powerhouses lock horns to claim the ultimate bragging rights in European football. Besides a matter of 90 minutes, El Clásico holds political connotations as it represents the perpetual struggle between Spain and Catalunya. This adds to the drama and tension that surrounds this grand occasion. The meetings between these two heavyweights have often produced fireworks and moments of enormous quality over the years. Both sides boast some of the best talent in their squad which makes El Clásico truly special. No better star attraction than Messi and Ronaldo. Whilst the Portuguese has left for Italy, the Argentine ace continues to don the Barcelona shirt and headline the biggest game in Spanish football.
HIGH STAKES AFFAIR
On 24th October 2020, Barca hosted Madrid at the Camp Nou in an early kick off El Clásico game. The anticipation was sky high as two of the biggest clubs in the world prepared for an intense showdown in a bid to assert themselves as the dominant force in Spanish football. Both sides came into the game on the back of some ordinary results and performances. Barca had lost to Getafe while Madrid had been beaten by La Liga newcomers Cadiz. Both Zidane and Koeman were under severe pressure to get a result in such a massive match.
HIGH OCTANE ACTION
Much to the delight of neutral fans, the start to the Clásico was action packed as both sides showed their intentions of venturing forward and scoring goals. Madrid drew first blood around the 5th minute mark via a strike from Valverde after a neat interchange with Benzema. Barca would strike back immediately. Messi chipped a delicious ball to the overlapping Alba, who played the perfect cross for the onrushing Ansu Fati. A great Clásico moment for the wonderkid. Messi and Benzema were guilty of squandering clear goalscoring chances for their respective teams. An eventful first half ended with one goal apiece. The second half started with a much slower pace as both teams appeared content with maintaining possession. Madrid were awarded a penalty following a VAR check around the half hour mark. Ramos stepped up and converted from the spot. Barca pressed for an equalizer, but with no real quality. Modric restored the two goal cushion in the dying minutes as Madrid claimed a deserved win.
ZIDANE TRUMPS KOEMAN
It was an absorbing Clásico between two quality teams. It was also intriguing to see the tactical battle between the two managers. It’s suffice to say Zidane prevailed over Koeman on this occasion. It’s important to remember that the Frenchman has never lost at the Camp Nou as Madrid boss. On the aftermath of the Clásico, it’s fair to say both teams have huge margins for improvement for the remainder of the season. Both managers will be eager to work on the training ground and find different ways to improve as the season progresses.
Without much further ado, let’s examine the ‘key takeaways’ from this Clásico.
Koeman’s team lack a precise identity on the pitch. Although we can all agree that the glorious days of Guardiola’s tiki-taka are long gone, the current team appears devoid of identity and ideas on the field. Ronald Koeman hasn’t been able to stamp his imprint on the squad yet. This current version of Barca fails to dominate matches like before, but they also seem very fragile defensively. This was particularly evident in the Clásico as they were toothless in front of goal and conceded several chances on the other end. Barca must regain their identity under Koeman if they are to challenge on multiple fronts this season.
The boardroom level situation at Barca has been chaotic for many years now. The friction between board and players has been well documented. Even the great Leo Messi has voiced his frustration on this matter on several occasions now. The internal politics has clearly started to affect players’ morale, making Koeman’s job much more complicated. The president Bartomeu must get his house in order. Barca motto says ‘Mes Que Un Club’. It’s time to act like one.
Ansu Fati Shines
The wonderkid impressed once again in the Clásico. He’s been a shining light in an otherwise difficult start to the season for Barca. The 18 year old prodigy continues to display immense talent and maturity. He’s also shown versatility by playing across the frontline. Fati started the Clásico as a false 9 and scored Barca’s equalizer. He was a constant threat to Madrid’s backline with his pace and direct running. An encouraging Clásico outing from the talented forward.
The Dutch manager had a bad day at the office. He was tactically outsmarted by his French counterpart Zidane. Barca looked lethargic and uninspired from the start. There was little intensity or urgency about their play in such a huge clash. They kept sterile possession and lacked precision in front of goal. They lost almost all individual duels and second balls. Koeman waited until the 81st minute to make his substitutions, by which time it was too late. The manager failed his first big test and will now be under pressure to atone for the defeat.
It would be an understatement to say winning the Clásico is a massive result. But his team’s performance would comfort Zizou even more. Madrid put in a commanding display against a strong opponent and thoroughly deserved the victory. They looked dangerous going forward and secure in defense. Madrid were smooth in transitions and sharp in front of goal. They didn’t allow Barca to get a foothold in the game. They played the match with the right mentality and intensity. An impressive performance that would certainly please Zidane.
Madrid simply dominated the middle of the park against a timid Barca. Kroos, Valverde and Casemiro were absolutely exceptional in midfield. The trio were efficient in their passing and kept the team ticking. They pressured the Barca midfielders and forced several turnovers. Casemiro effectively cut off passing lanes, Kroos moved the ball with precision, and Valverde made bursting runs forward to join Benzema in attack. Modric entered the match later and scored the last goal as well. A tireless performance from Madrid’s quality midfielders.
Sergio Ramos led the team as brilliantly as he always does. His vital presence at the back can’t be understated. His defending was generally astute and his passing from the back was impressive. He calmly converted a crucial penalty that gave Madrid the lead in the second half. He also kept his composure for the entire match and didn’t commit silly fouls. A captain worthy performance.
The Frenchman remains undefeated at the Camp Nou during his time as Real Madrid’s manager. He came into the game under pressure on the back of an embarrassing defeat to minnows Cadiz. But he responded with classic Zidane style, achieving a fantastic result against the archrivals. Zizou has this unique habit of coming up big in key moments and he did it again. This performance will definitely relieve some pressure and offer much needed breathing space.
The Clásico was a fascinating watch for all neutrals. The start was enthralling with an early goal. Both sides made their intentions known pretty early which made for an entertaining watch. The first half saw both teams bomb forward on every given opportunity which left the defenses exposed. The second half was cagey but still produced several chances. Messi, Coutinho, Benzema and Ramos were all guilty of missing clear cut chances. The Clásico always comes with tremendous hype and fanfare, though it lives up to the billing each time.
There isn’t any big match around Europe that goes without VAR intervention. That’s just the reality we live in now. A mammoth fixture like the Clásico was always going to have a ‘VAR moment’. Around the hour mark, a controversial penalty was awarded to Madrid after a lengthy VAR review. Lenglet had been adjudged to have fouled Ramos during a corner kick tussle. A similar incident involving Messi had happened earlier at the other end, but the penalty wasn’t awarded then. Just a case of another big game marred by a VAR controversy.
The Clásico was a reality check for both managers. Zidane and Koeman came into the game under pressure. At the final whistle, both managers would find themselves in very contrasting situations. Zidane would receive plaudits after securing an important win, therefore relieving some of the pressure. Koeman would come under severe criticism for the embarrassing nature of the defeat. However, there’s ample room for improvement for both teams. It’s still early, but the Clásico just gave us a glimpse of where the two sides currently stand.