The result which every Real Madrid fan would have been dreading came into fruition after Los Blancos suffered a hugely disappointing 2-1 defeat at the hands of fierce rivals Barcelona at Nou Camp on Sunday night.
Despite putting in a valiant performance on the day, Madrid simply did not do enough during the crucial moments of the match to claim the victory and the loss means that Barcelona have been able to establish a four point cushion at the top of the La Liga table.
Five things we learned from the clash
1. Profligacy in front of goal proved to be costly
This weekend’s El Clasico was the epitome of a game of two halves. Despite falling behind to an early goal from Jeremy Mathieu, Madrid were undoubtedly the better side during the first period and fully deserved their equalizer through the determined Cristiano Ronaldo.
While parity during half time was no less than Madrid deserved, they probably should have been out of sight after the number of chances they had fashioned before the break.
Particularly following the 25 minute mark, Madrid dominated the proceedings and Barcelona simply looked unable to cope with the attacking threat posed by the likes of Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric.
Ronaldo hit the post and brought out a fantastic save from Claudio Bravo while Gareth Bale also came close on a couple of occasions. Therefore, it is fair to say that Madrid had enough chances in the first period to seal the game.
However, there are no prizes for coming close in football and quite naturally; Los Blancos were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal at the end.
2. Poor defending ultimately the downfall for Madrid
While Madrid’s inability to turn chances into goals proved to be costly, it was woeful defending which ultimately proved to be the downfall for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
Firstly, it was shocking defending from Sergio Ramos in the first half which allowed Jeremy Mathieu a free header to score the opening goal of the game, while the Madrid backline inexplicably falling asleep for Luis Suarez’s winner in the second period was simply amateurish defending.
Apart from the two goals, the Madrid backline was simply torn apart too easily by the Barcelona trinity of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, and during the dying stages of the game – the Catalan side could have register a much more comprehensive victory, had they been a bit more clinical.
Only the Madrid defenders should not be singled out though as Ancelotti’s men simply did not defend as a team from the front and Dani Alves being allowed to pick a pass for the second goal without being put under any sort of pressure typified Los Blancos’ poor defensive display as a whole.
3. Ancelotti’s strange substitutions did not work
Great managers are defined by moments of tactical brilliance during the game which alters the tide of the outcome and while Carlo Ancelotti is certainly a great manager, it has to be said that a couple of his tactical decisions were a bit baffling.
Ancelotti seemed to have got the team selection spot on and Madrid were most certainly the dominant side before falling behind to Suarez’s goal in the second half against the run of play.
While conceding during a period in which Madrid were able to dominate was certainly a setback,Los Blancos’ inability to react to the goal was disheartening to say the least.
Rather than looking to bounce back, Madrid’s heads dropped after conceding and from that point on, it never looked like they could fashion an equalizer. During such a difficult period, substitutions from the manager usually inspire the team but Ancelotti did quite the opposite with the changes that he made.
First of all, it was Raphael Varane who was brought on for Pepe on the 74th minute when the scores were at 2-1 and while one could understand the change due to the fact that the Portuguese defender was on the verge of getting sent off, Ancelotti’s third substitution made little sense.
After bringing on Jese for Isco for the second change, Ancelotti’s decision to throw on midfielder Lucas Silva for Luka Modric in the 88th minute left many scratching their heads.
It is clear that Ancelotti does not have too much faith in Javier Hernandez but instead of bringing on a central midfielder like Lucas, gambling on a man who has made a career out of scoring late goals from the bench would have perhaps been the right move.
4. Bale, Isco went missing but Benzema, Modric, Casillas and Ronaldo were encouraging
Despite the defeat, Madrid could certainly take a few positives from the clash and arguably the displays of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and even Iker Casillas would have handed some sort of solace to the fans.
Ronaldo and Benzema linked up with each other very well while Luka Modric was once again the instigator of everything good that Madrid did on the night. Under pressure Iker Casillas was also on hand to make a couple of fine saves and his selection in the starting eleven was completely justified.
On a sour note though, the likes of Sergio Ramos, Isco, Gareth Bale, Dani Carvajal and Pepe were simply atrocious and need to do much better in the upcoming matches.
5. Title race not over
Following the setback many have jumped to the conclusion that the title race is over for Madrid and their only hope for a trophy this season is in the Champions League.
While the statement may well turn out to be true at the end of the season, making such an assumption now is certainly a bit pre-mature. No one can deny that Madrid have been handed a huge setback in the race for the La Liga title but there are still ten games and 30 points left to be contested for.
Madrid’s destiny is now no longer in their own hands but clichéd as it may sound, anything can happen in football and especially during a campaign which has been full of twists and turns.
What Madrid have to do now is avoid allowing Barcelona to run away with the lead at the top of the table and push their rivals till the end.