This past Saturday saw the most anticipated football game every fanatic awaits each season. El Clásico between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona were playing were for points as both are fairly close to each other on the table. Nonetheless, the match did not provide the intensity every fan looks forward to. When the roster sheets were submitted by each manager, some peculiar faces were provoked from the Madrid side of it.
As a single pivot defensive midfielder, Sergio Ramos had the purpose of protecting the back four from Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Cesc Fábregas. He failed in that as Cesc and Messi constantly interchanged drawing Ramos away and leaving the two center backs, Raphaël Varane and Pepe, exposed. Ramos’ early booking handicapped his opportunity to physically block out and break up the Barça attack. This also forced right back Dani Carvajal to come inside and help leaving Neymar on the left free to roam and open up the scoring in the 19th minute.
Another issue with Ramos in the midfield was the lack of service to the attacking trident in the front, which was also something new. Ten minutes into the second half, Asier Illarramendi came in for the Real captain to provide these services. Needless to say, Illarra should have started and we would be having a different conversation.
Another surprise move was having Gareth Bale start the match even though he is clearly not fully fit. The Wales international has been an impact sub in recent matches and has yet to acclimate to Spanish football. This new twist was obviously not a Carlo Ancelotti decision as Madrid club president Florentino Perez has always stated that El Clásico is for stars, therefore the £85 million player should start. Bale’s presence meant that out-of-form striker Karim Benzema had to be left out instead of in-form Angel Di María and placing Cristiano Ronaldo in the striker position, where he clearly does not perform at his best.
The attacking trio are all capable of interchanging positions as the match carries on, but the lack of playing time with Bale was a factor in the inefficiency on Saturday night. The Spanish press have released over the weekend that Bale was “a mistake” and “irrelevant”, stating that his lack of expected flare is wearing thin with the Madrid faithful. Bale’s marker, Adriano, was booked midway through the first half which meant the former Tottenham Hotspur player could have exposed him from that point on with his charging pace, but he failed to produce that aspect of his game.
Also, not having an actual No. 9 in the lineup meant Cristiano didn’t have someone distracting the defenders so that he could be able to seek in from his usual left side position. Even though CR7 still had several chances to score, playing in a position he is not used to cost the Real’s attack.
Other questions drawn from Real’s lineup were the lack of Isco and Álvaro Morata. Isco’s creativity could have been suitable to maintaining possession against a team that has the same style. A likely theory for not using Isco was because of the fear of Sergio Busquets boxing him out. Morata’s impressive displays recently could have shown promise in a time that the team needed to create. Ancelotti opted instead to use Jese Rodriguez as his speed was likely to throw off the defense on the counter.
On the subject of the counter attack, that is what the Italian manager was thinking of when devising his plan to destabilizing the Barcelona strategy. From that aspect credit must be given to Carlo as he was attempting to be creative with his options.
One thing Real Madrid have drawn from this Clásico is that they still are not sure of their strongest team as of yet while Madrid fans’ patience is wearing thin.