At an Allegiant Stadium whose packed crowd was brimming with enthusiasm at a Las Vegas Clásico on Saturday, Barcelona ran out 1-0 winners over Real Madrid. It was a victory the Catalans deserved, having dominated the first half and mounted a number of dangerous attacks in the second, as the game began to flag. Once more, Thibaut Courtois was in inspired form; with Karim Benzema absent, the Belgian was Madrid’s best player. Benzema’s omission was a blow to the fixture, which had been billed as a clash between him and Robert Lewandowski. The Frenchman has come up with the rather good wheeze of spending his holidays in America and waiting over there for Madrid’s US tour. After all, why cross the pond twice for the sake of a few days’ training in Spain? So having only returned to work on Wednesday, he didn’t play.
Gavi, Busquets and Pedri run show as Barça frontmen impress
The summer signings did play in Nevada, though. Barça started with a front three of Raphinha, Lewandowski and Ansu Fati, who all played well. That’s particularly welcome news when it comes to Fati. People are eager to finally see him put together a run of games in that kind of nick. With that attack supported by Gavi, Sergio Busquets and Pedri in the middle of the park (the Spain midfield?), Barça were much the better side in the first half. Federico Valverde, Aurelien Tchouaméni and Eduardo Camavinga couldn’t handle the pressure exerted by the Blaugrana. Madrid only threatened through the odd Vinícius Júnior break and two good counter-attacks that saw Valverde hit the post and Antonio Rüdiger, who played at left-back, send an angled shot wide.
Subs give Madrid more control, but Barça pose greater attacking threat
The game was won by a stunning strike from Raphinha, after Barça’s pressing forced Éder Militão into a hospital pass straight to his compatriot. Earlier, Fati had come close to an opener following a crazy piece of over-elaboration by Camavinga. After the break, we saw a host of substitutions. Ancelotti brought on his age-old midfield trio of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos, and Madrid gained greater control against an increasingly second-string Barça. That control did not translate into much in the way of attacking danger, though. At the other end, Los Blancos did have to deal with threatening Barça moments, Courtois pulling off splendid stops to thwart the forward incursions of subs Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembélé, Franck Kessié and Memphis Depay. In short, Barça look much improved, while Madrid are still all about Courtois; their veteran midfield; Vinícius; and the absent Benzema.