Title aspirations of Real Madrid took a major hit in the latest El Clasico, courtesy Franck Kessie’s late winner for Barcelona.
Real Madrid hit the road to square up against Barcelona in the latest instalment of El Clasico on Sunday. It was a very important clash for Los Blancos, who were looking to keep their La Liga title hopes alive with a win against the league leaders.
However, things did not go according to plan for Real Madrid, who had a disappointing outing and ended up losing 2-1 on the night. The result came as a huge blow to their aspirations of retaining the title.
Xavi Hernandez’s men were clinical on Sunday night as their team dominated Carlo Ancelotti’s charges and got the job done. Real Madrid’s defeat has now left them with 56 points out of their 26 matches.
The reigning La Liga champions are now 12 points behind the league leaders. And, it seems like a next-to-impossible job for Los Blancos to win the league title from here on. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at where things went wrong for Real Madrid.
So, what went wrong for Real Madrid on Sunday night against Barcelona?
BARCELONA SNATCH EL CLASICO IN THE 92ND MINUTE 👋 pic.twitter.com/1MvDpqQeWe
— GOAL (@goal) March 19, 2023
Carlo Ancelotti started off with his preferred 4-3-3 formation and had the versatile Federico Valverde on the right wing. It meant Real Madrid were prepared to shift to a 4-4-2 while defending. But they still could not keep Barcelona quiet on the night.
The absence of Aurelien Tchouameni from the starting XI came as a surprise. While Ancelotti has started quite a few matches without him, the common belief was that the French defensive midfielder was a must-have for this fixture given the fact that Barcelona love to have control of the ball.
However, the Real Madrid manager decided to go ahead with Eduardo Camavinga, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos in the middle of the park. While all three of them are world-class players, none of them is an out-and-out defensive midfielder. And that went against Los Blancos.
Tchouameni’s absence allowed the league leaders to control the ball and have the majority of the possession. While the overall stats do not show that big a difference, it was pretty clear on the pitch in the initial phase of the game.
Kroos had a rare off day at work, and the Barcelona forwards capitalised on it. Even before the German midfielder could have a hang of things, the hosts had gained control of the match. And, the first half did not go according to plan despite the lucky break that they had in terms of an early own goal by Ronald Araujo.
Even Nacho was not at his best. The 33-year-old had a night to forget as he started as the left-back for Los Blancos. The Spain international stood ball-watching as Raphina ran riot against the Real Madrid defence.
Thibaut Courtois’s heroics on the night was the only positive for Real Madrid. The Belgian shot-stopper was at the peak of his powers as he made numerous saves and kept the visitors in the contest up until the final minutes.
Karim Benzema’s below-par outing
Benzema has been Real Madrid’s best player ever since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. And, the French striker was at the peak of his power in the previous season. But, the ongoing campaign has not been the same for the 35-year-old.
While he has had significant goal contributions this term, he has not been as effective as he was in the previous season. The French forward has missed quite a few games because of injuries. And, he has been below par in a few fixtures.
The latest instalment of the El Clasico was a forgettable day for the 35-year-old. Neither was he able to create chances nor was he able to break into spaces. His link-up play with Vinicius Junior has done wonders for Los Blancos over the past few seasons. But on Sunday night, things just did not happen for the Ballon d’Or winner.
In short, Carlo Ancelotti got it wrong with his playing XI as they allowed Barcelona to gain control of the fixture in the first half. While Real Madrid were dangerous on the break, they were not in control of things in their own half.
The defensive unit looked unsettled. And, there was a bit of nervousness about how they defended. The changes he made in the second half did have an impact on the game. But it was a touch too late. Eventually, it cost them when they conceded in injury time to gift Barcelona all three points as well as (potentially) the league title.
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