Real Madrid players, manager and support staff must be sporting an ear-to-ear grin after completing the demolition job of Barcelona in a comprehensive manner, that too, twice in successive weeks.
What Saturday’s game showed was even without their first choice players, Jose Mourinho’s outfit can tear apart any top European squad. That has been the entire purpose of Florentino Perez spending bucket loads of cash, to build a squad where the reserve bench can also operate at more or less similar levels as the first team.
This victory, however, cannot paper over the cracks of Real’s performance in this season overall – for a team of such stars they were essentially fighting for two titles during the start of the season – the La Liga and the Champions League.
For all practical purposes, the former is now beyond their reach, and therefore their level of performance in the latter competition would summarize the 2012-13 season for the club. In that backdrop, it is critical to understand what this week’s El Clasico taught us about Real Madrid’s chances of progression in the Champions League:
Lapses in defence
Real’s starting eleven for this game had no surprise as far as their defensive line-up was concerned. The back four of Michael Essien, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Fabio Coentrao are expected to feature (at least some of them) in the midweek game at Old Trafford as well.
While as a defensive outfit, they held on well against the likes of Lionel Messi and David Villa, momentary lapses in concentration could not be avoided.
One such incident gave Messi a free run in the Real box from which Barca equalized, in another incident Alexis Sanchez was usurped by Ramos which should have resulted to a penalty for Barcelona.
Mourinho would be worried how these brain fade moments in Real defence can be eliminated, especially when the midweek opposition would have a lethal Robin van Persie, the reinvigorated Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney up front.
The bencher-warmers and the youth
Kaka and Luka Modric are sublime midfielders in their own right and have the ability to grace the starting eleven of some of the top teams in Europe. That is not the situation they find in the Madrid camp right now though, so both of them had an opportunity today to show their manager that they also fit in the starting eleven.
While both of them showed their usual flair and also the knack of dropping deep and throttling some of the Barca attacking movements, it must be said the present first-teamers like Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Sami Khedira etc. are operating at a completely different level both technically and fitness-wise.
Likewise, special mention should also go to 20-year-old Alvaro Morata who in his first Clasico, proved his potential and mettle. It was his pin point delivery from the left in the opening minutes that led Karim Benzema to open the scoring for the Los Blancos.
What a difference his substitution made for the fortune of Real Madrid and the general nature of this Clasico! What had become a tepid phase of play after Barca’s equalizer was completely energized by Ronaldo with his positional play, pace and dead ball abilities.
Be it driving fear into the Barca defence during taking free kicks or be it linking up with his team-mates effortlessly just after coming on, Ronaldo showed he will tower above the rest when he’s there on the pitch.
He is the super-galactico of this bunch of stars, and on present form nothing will correlate Real’s performance graph in the Champions League than Ronaldo’s own form!
This was probably the defining week for Mourinho to establish his legacy at Madrid. Defeating Barcelona twice in a week is no easy feat, but the job is still not done yet. The Champions League tie is settled at 1-1 after the first leg and it will need another heroic effort from the men in white to seal their fate.