As soon as the fixture list for the new La Liga season was announced, everyone’s eyes were on one date: November 21.
It was the day when arguably the most highly anticipated clash in world football was played. That's right, El Clasico - but the match was anything but a classic.
A windy night at the Bernabeu prevented the passing from flourishing and the stop-start nature of the match wasn't helped by fouls and play-acting by players from both sides. The 4-0 scoreline also suggested a one-sided match in which Barcelona claimed bragging rights, but there was more to ponder than just the demolition.
BECOME A WRITER
Do you have what it takes? Sign up today and send over your 250 word test article: https://gms.to/haveyoursay3
Ronaldo is past his best
Frustration alone cannot sum up Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance. It will torment him even more knowing he hasn’t scored in three straight matches and hit the back of the net in only four league matches this season.
His waning influence on his team was evident against Barcelona. While he did come close with a header, he looked far from his best - and the boo boys made sure he was reminded about it every time.
The fact he looked disinterested in the middle will worry the Real hierarchy.
Rise of the dynamic duo
Behold, one of the best strike partnerships in recent times. They're fast, they're clinical; they're Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Against Real they were impossible to defend against. Whilst Suarez scored two goals, Neymar was a constant thorn in the home side's defence and provided an excellent back-heeled assist to set up Andres Iniesta's emphatic strike for Barcelona's third.
Talisman Lionel Messi did make an appearance late in the game, yet he wasn't even needed at this point. The fact Barcelona were able to dismantle their opponents with such ease without their star man is a testement to just how incredible Suarez and Neymar have been this season, scoring, assisting, or at least playing a part in, each and every one of the club's goals this season.
Real need more than just De Gea; they need a new defensive unit
Los Blancos spent the whole summer trying to lure Manchester United 'keeper David de Gea to the Bernabeu, and whilst they failed in doing so, they still have a chance to buy him next season.
Current goalkeeper Keylor Navas has been outstanding this season, but he endured a horrid night against Barcelona, with his defenders largely to blame for the defeat.
Full-backs Danilo and Marcelo, known for their attacking intent, failed to track back throughout the clash, but the most damning sight was to see Raphael Varane, tipped to be the greatest defender of this generation, struggling against some pretty straightforward attacks.
He was sloppy in clearing the ball too, often giving the ball away cheaply. Ramos also picked up what has now become a customary yellow card in a match where so much more was expected from their new captain.
Benitez's tactical errors are hurting Real
In a match with such high stakes, Rafa Benitez got so much wrong. Whilst it was arguably Real's best XI that the Spaniard fielded, neither an out-of-sorts Gareth Bale or a Karim Benzema only recently coming back from injury were ever going to phase a Barcelona side in such rich form.
The pragmatism didn’t help too. While Barca were pressing all over the pitch and weaving pass after pass, Real looked awkward sitting back and sending too many long balls forward.
Benitez's substitutions were equally as ludicrous. James Rodriguez and Marcelo were the only players showing intent yet they were the ones subbed.
Whilst their replacements performed admirably, with Dani Carvajal and Isco - before the latter was sent off - both playing quality football, it was players like Bale, Danilo and Toni Kroos who deserved to be replaced.