Real Madrid saw their Champions League ambitions take a big blow with the loss to Man City in mid-week. Now they host arch-rivals Barcelona in a must-win situation to regain their place at the top of the La Liga table.
Los Blancos did so in style with a 2-0 win to not only gain El Clasico bragging rights but also return to the top of the table and send Barca back down to second-place.
The El Clasico saw a pretty high-tempo first-half and both sides produce some blistering end-to-end stuff on occasions but neither could break the deadlock in the first-half, with Thibaut Courtois making a flurry of excellent saves to deny the Leo Messi & co.
Los Blancos turned up the volume in the second-half and after being denied by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s excellent saves, Vinicius Jr broke the deadlock in the 71st-minute when his shot was deflected into the net.
Super-sub Mariano Diaz then sealed the win in the 92nd-minute to ensure that Madrid leapt over Barca to gain an upper-hand in the La Liga title race and pretty much ensure it’ll go down to the wire.
Real Madrid player ratings vs Manchester City
Zinedine Zidane (8.0) –
Zizou gets one over Barca AGAIN! The two changes he made from mid-week in bringing in Marcelo & Kroos worked magic. His crowded midfield line forced Barca out of their comfort zone and left them a frustrated mess towards the end.
But he ensured his side pounced when their opponents had passed themselves into submission and encouraging attacks through Vinicius’ side proved dividents. Even his substitutions were perfect as Mariano netted the second. Undid all his wrongs from mid-week and tactically outclassed Quique Setien to prove why he & his side are Spain’s very best right now.
Thibaut Courtois (8.0) –
Courtois was protected well by his defence in the initial stages but comfortably saved Messi’s shot at the half-hour mark. Made himself well to superbly deny Arthur in the 34th. Then denied Messi again with a solid save in the 38th. Reacted well to stop Braithwaite to score after going through on goal in the 69th.
His excellent stops inspired Madrid to keep pegging forward and ultimately gain that win. He also gets his second clean-sheet against Barca this season, doing something not many else can boast of.
Dani Carvajal (8.0) –
Carvajal must be craving for redemption after conceding that penalty against City. A heated tussle with Alba saw him booked in the 19th. Woke up after the break, making a blistering forward run before placing an ideal cross for Isco’s chance at the hour-mark.
Again steered forward after regaining possession in the 63rd but saw Benzema scuff his chance after finding him free yards out from goal. On the defensive front he was indomitable, creeping up in the right areas to thwart danger and ultimately getting the better out of Alba. Rewarded for his persistence with the clever assist for Mariano’s strike.
Raphael Varane (7.0) –
Varane is ice-cool as always. Getting outwitted at times but his intelligent positional sense is allowing him to clear danger in clutch areas. Managed to keep fellow countryman Griezmann pretty quiet throughout, making the necessary challenges whenever required & using his physicality to great effect.
Sergio Ramos (7.5) –
Ramos has to bounce back well after being sent-off in mid-week. Makes a clever block to deny Griezmann a goal-bound shot in the 17th. After that, he started operating like a natural leader. Maintained an unbreakable defensive line, made thumping clearances & steered his team forward in counter-attacks with impressive distribution.
Marcelo (7.0) –
The Brazilian is opted ahead of Mendy for the Clasico. Blazing forward like a cheetah at times, but his final product was underwhelming. Soldiered up defensively as things got intense and had the Bernabeu roaring with a thumping challenge to deny Messi in the 74th. Used his experience to excellent use to limit their supply through his wing.
Fede Valverde (6.5) –
The bullish midfielder looks high on adrenaline like always. Hugging to the right-wing but unable to create anything definitive. But he worked his absolute socks off in tracking back, limiting space for Barca and aiding his defensively really well. Did the job he was sent out to do.
Casemiro (7.5) –
Casemiro held the huge task of tracking Messi. Maintaining his position really well to frustrate Barca. Got the bettter off Messi once again. Marked his movements well, tackled efficiently to win possession and also helped spark counter-attacks. Made 10 recoveries & shut down Barca’s penetrativeness down the middle using his excellent game-reading skills.
Toni Kroos (8.5) –
Replaces Modric in midfield. Trying to charge his side ahead with incisive distribution. Blasts a shot over from a promising area in the 15th. Then slotted another one over in the 29th. But his creativity shone through as he superbly cut open Barca’s defence & literally pointed out to Vinicius when to move into the area for his strike.
He maintained 98% passing accuracy from 64 passes and effectively outBarca’d Barca. Controlled the game with an iron fish and put together a midfield masterclass at the biggest stage possible.
Isco (7.0) –
Isco again gets the free role today. Kept wandering around the final third trying to pick his time to strike but when he did produce an inch-perfect curler at goal in the 56th, Ter Stegen produced an exceptional save to deny him. Then again placed his header on target in the 61st but saw his attempted cleared off the line.
Bit unlucky not to score but his goal inspired Madrid to kept charging forward to get the opener.
Vinicius Jr (7.0) –
It’s Vinicius’ first-ever start in a Clasico. Bubbling with energy early on. His inexperience is evident in a sloppy challenge to get booked in the 10th. Wastes a promising counter-attack by hitting a weak shot straight at Ter Stegen in the 37th.
Despite being frustrating with his final product throughout, he produced the defining moment by cleverly waltzing into a promising area before his shot was deflected into the net by Pique. Hassled Barca with his sizzling forward-runs & lightened up the stadium with his trickery.
Karim Benzema (5.5) –
Benzema must use his experience to good use and galvanize his team-mates today. Popped a swipe over the bar early on. Couldn’t divert the whipped crosses into goal and blasted a shot over from yards out in the 63rd. Moved into some promising areas but lacked his scoring boots today.
Luka Modric (6.5) –
Modric ensured that Madrid didn’t crumble under the late pressure, kept the ball moving well and added an extra body to restrict their supply.
Lucas Vasquez (N/R) –
Vasquez kept the counter-attacking danger alive after coming on in the late stages.
Mariano Diaz (7.0) –
Brought on in added time and did in one minute what Benzema couldn’t do in 90. Blazed past Umtiti before superbly chipping past Ter Stegen to seal the win for Los Blancos.
MAN OF THE MATCH
There are many contenders for this. Courtois, Carvajal, Kroos, Casemiro were all very good. But Kroos was just on another level in the middle. He’s my MOTM for inspiring Los Blancos to an important win.