[dropcap]E[/dropcap]ternal rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona contested one of the most one-sided Clásico fixtures in recent memory on Saturday night, with the Catalan powerhouses prevailing 4-0 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
It could well have even been a heavier defeat for the capital city hosts, with the manner of the visitors’ dominance leading to the waving of white hankies from the home support.
The result opens up a six-point lead at the top of the table for Luis Enrique’s men, who welcomed Lionel Messi back to the fray after two months out of action through injury.
Here are five observations from Barcelona’s win.
Madrid’s lack of pressing a criminal flaw
Playing against Barcelona is a thankless task, with the Blaugrana’s opposition having to concede that the Catalan side will have the majority of the ball.
However, effort is required in winning possession back and closing down Barca’s chief creative talents is a complete prerequisite to have any chance of nullifying the European champions.
Madrid, for some unforeseen reason, did not press their opponents as a team, with the likes of Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitić given time and space on the ball.
The lack of commitment from the home players will be a disappointment, but the tactical naivety of Rafa Benítez to not urge his side to press Barcelona is even more alarming.
With Madrid’s defence also sloppy in possession and misplacing passes, the home side’s approach was a recipe for disaster and they were duly punished.
Neymar and Suárez thrive as attacking duo
Lionel Messi’s role as Barcelona’s catalyst last season was very evident, but without the Argentine of late Neymar and Luis Suárez have stepped up to fill his shoes.
The pair worked together to carve up Madrid’s defence on numerous occasions, while both were completely clinical in front of goal.
Barcelona have been accused of being over-reliant on Messi in recent years as a source of their success, and as such the exploits of the side’s other attacking players shows that the Camp Nou side are as dangerous now as at any point in the recent memory.
Suárez’s presence has revolutionised the way Barcelona play, while Neymar’s star quality shows that he is now amongst the world’s very best.
Madrid’s attack lifeless and predictable
Although Claudio Bravo pulled off a number of good saves, Madrid’s lack of attacking penetration will be a worry for a side full of offensive players.
Cristiano Ronaldo had a quiet evening by his lofty standards, finding it hard to find space to influence affairs and looking entirely unhappy throughout.
Karim Benzema returned to the fold and looked a yard off the pace, while Gareth Bale only really came into the game in the last half an hour.
The dynamic of the Madrid attack is clearly not working currently, which is staggering given the talent they have in the final third.
Iniesta puts forward a masterclass
Although Madrid offered him too much time on the ball, Andrés Iniesta put in a masterclass performance.
The World Cup winner was pivotal in Barcelona’s goals, with his range of passing and creativity a joy to watch.
The fact that the Spain international was applauded by the home support is a measure of just how good Iniesta was; the veteran remains an essential member of a Blaugrana side loaded with stars.
Rafa Benítez’s decisions under the microscope
Despite his team being second best for the entirety, Benítez’s decision making must be questioned.
The choice to omit Casemiro from the centre of midfield, robbing the hosts of much-needed aggression and energy, was something of a surprise and played its part in the visitors’ dominance.
From there, the former Napoli boss opted to take off both James Rodríguez and Marcelo, arguably Madrid’s two most progressive and hard-working players on the day.
Talk of Benítez being sacked may well be premature, but it is clear to see that under his guidance Los Blancos lack direction, leadership and a tactical plan.
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