Real Madrid 0-4 Barcelona: Ancelotti got it spectacularly wrong
A Clásico that on paper lacked edge turned out to be juicy in the extreme. It was a triumph for Xavi Hernández, an evening which, I think we can say, confirmed the Barcelona boss as a coach to be reckoned with. He sent out a well balanced team that moved the ball skilfully, showed great personality and attacking purpose, and thrashed Real Madrid. Whoever still had any doubts has now been disabused of them: Barça are back. Thanks to Xavi, who was very brave to take the job, and thanks to some astute January signings. I’m sure Barça president Joan Laporta will get tired of being told in the coming days that he should have brought Xavi in much earlier. If he had, the Blaugrana wouldn’t be 12 points off Madrid at this stage.
A tactical fiasco for Real Madrid coach Ancelotti
What a contrast between Xavi and Carlo Ancelotti. The Madrid boss had a complete nightmare. He sought to replace the absent Karim Benzema by playing Luka Modric up top, as a number nine who drops deep in the same way as Benzema. But this meant Modric couldn’t pull the strings like he normally does. So without a centre-forward or a midfielder dictating the play, Madrid were in the game for about 10 minutes. Thereafter, Barça began to pin their hosts back, bossing possession and creating almost all the chances. At half time, with the Catalans 2-0 up, Ancelotti changed things - and just made it worse. He introduced Mariano Díaz, allowing Modric to return to the midfield, but also decided to switch to three at the back. Within two minutes of the restart, Madrid had conceded one and almost conceded another. Ancelotti reorganised again, and at least limited the damage to a four-goal defeat.
Barcelona's Messi mourning period is over
It’s a Clásico that will live long in the memory. For Xavi, it’s the game where he arrived as a coach, and for the Barcelona fans it’s the end of the period of pessimism sparked by Lionel Messi’s departure. Barça have a fine generation of homegrown talent and several interesting signings, plus a player in Frenkie de Jong who Xavi has rehabilitated. Barça have a good squad and a leader in the dugout. As for Real Madrid, Ancelotti has seriously blotted his copybook. Benzema’s absence led the Italian to mess up his team, and his half-time remedy only caused greater havoc. If his first decision was mistaken, his second was pure madness. Madrid will still win LaLiga, but neither club president Florentino Pérez nor the supporters will easily forget this unexpected and unnecessary humiliation.