Barcelona really do have it in for Real Madrid don’t they?!
A morale-sapping 1-0 defeat for Los Blancos on Saturday ended the week perfectly for the Catalans, but we’ll come back to that game later.
Last Wednesday, despite having 14 shots on target to Barca’s three, Los Blancos still ended up losing that match 0-3, and with it their aspirations of a Copa del Rey that they’ve won only twice in the last 25 years.
The Catalans, by contrast, have won it eight times in the same time frame, the last four successively, and they’ve not lost a domestic cup tie since Real beat them in the 2014 final thanks to Gareth Bale’s scandalous winner.
For long periods in the second leg of the semi-final, Real were much the better side. Barca did have their moments and controlled the possession, but the pincer movements in attack all came from the hosts.
The problem is they had a collective night off when it comes to finishing. At least the Bernabeu faithful can be happy with the progress of Vinicius Junior who, at just 18, looks very much to be the new darling of the Madridistas.
Any good work on the night came through the Brazilian youngster, and it’s only a matter of time before he really starts firing. A scary thought for opposition teams.
Defensively, Real were let down by Sergio Ramos for the first goal and Raphael Varane for the second, but, interestingly, one of their best players on the night was another youngster, Sergio Reguilon, at left-back.
Santiago Solari is at least being pro-active in terms of a changing of the guard, but one has to wonder how much longer he has left in the job, given his team were, in the end, so well beaten.
It’s really quite incredible to think that before Wednesday’s result, four of the last five games in all competitions at the Santiago Bernabeu were won 0-3, 2-3, 2-3 and 0-4.
Goals galore and results that hint at a mental issue when the Catalans come to town.
That certainly appeared to be the case again when Ernesto Valverde’s side arrived back in Madrid 72 hours later, this time for the La Liga return.
Solari knew that another loss would probably be the final nail in his managerial coffin, just as the Clasico defeat at the Camp Nou was for his predecessor, Julen Lopetegui.
Up until Ivan Rakitic exquisitely fired the Blaugrana into the lead on 26 minutes, Real had again been the better side, but their Achilles heel of not being able to finish came back to haunt them once more.
In truth, by the time that Undiano Mallenco had blown for half-time, Barcelona should’ve been out of sight, the visitors wasting at least another three glorious chances.
Sergio Ramos was also lucky to still be on the pitch after a wayward elbow struck Lionel Messi in the face.
An absorbing second period followed much the same pattern. It was a magnificent advert for Spanish football, but that will be of no consolation to a Real Madrid side whose eventual 0-1 defeat meant that they’ve now lost eight of the last 11 Clasicos in the league at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Moreover, the win sees Barca overtake them on the head to head record for the first time in 87 years. The Catalans now have 96 wins to Real’s 95, and when you consider that the latter were once 16 wins better off, that’s some come back.
The end result is that Los Blancos are out of the La Liga title race – again – and we’re only just into March.
That’s completely unacceptable for a club like Real Madrid and will herald sweeping changes in the summer, unless Solari can somehow lead Real to yet another Champions League title.