On Sunday night, two of the giants of football clashed at Bernabeu, as Real Madrid hosted Barcelona in another instalment of that classic soap opera ‘El Clasico’. This encounter gave La Liga leaders Real Madrid the chance to put an in-form Barcelona in their place, rub salt into the gaping wounds of Catalan’s inability to challenge for the Spanish title.
Instead, the game produced a handsome 4-0 win for the visitors and what could be a sign of things to come from Xavi’s Barcelona.
Barcelona gave Real Madrid no chance
In fairness to Barcelona, the score may have been even worse for Real Madrid if were not for some missed chances and some excellent goalkeeping from Los Blancos number one Thibaut Courtois. January signings Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres played a vital role in the win.
The latter scored a brace and should have had a hat-trick at least, while the Ferran also got in on the goalscoring act with the team’s third goal. Carlo Ancelotti’s team were all over the place and simply didn’t have an answer to Barcelona’s movement and football intelligence.
Every Barcelona player won their individual battles. Without star forward Karim Benzema, the runaway league leaders looked bereft of attacking ideas. Defensively, they were quite frankly shambolic.
Passed the test
It is strange to say, but this game was a free hit for Barcelona. It was a test of how far they have really come since Xavi’s appointment as head coach. The Blaugrana headed into this clash on the back of a five-game winning run in La Liga, so were full of confidence.
This was the big test of Xavi’s new Barcelona. It is fair to say they passed it with flying colours. They were sharper, used the ball more intelligently and quite simply better at every aspect of the game than the men from Madrid.
This display showed that Barcelona looks to have found the right man for the coaching job in club legend, Xavi Hernandez. His arrival had long been mooted and seemed to be just a matter of when he would return to Catalonia. Since his appointment in November, the Catalan giants have looked like they were heading in just one direction and that was up the table.
Too late for a title charge
While Barcelona will celebrate the win over arch-nemesis Real Madrid, Xavi will know that there is still plenty of work to be done at the Camp Nou. When he arrived the Blaugrana were struggling for results and had a team populated by b team players.
Courtesy of returns to injury and the inspired January signing of duo Ferran and Aubameyang, Barcelona are like a different team than the one Xavi inherited. The team are playing well and are currently third-place in the table, 12 points behind Real Madrid, with a game in hand on Los Blancos. The title looks to be out of reach, but Barcelona now trail second-place Sevilla by just three points and after the start they had to the season, claiming second-place this season would not be a disastrous result for Barcelona.
The evidence from Xavi’s spell in charge in Catalonia suggests that Barcelona could be far closer to Real Madrid next season in the table. In fact, this game was almost a signal of intent for next season.
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Is Sunday’s crushing of rivals Real Madrid a title warning from Barcelona for next season?