History was made at the Camp Nou, but unfortunately not for reasons worthy of plaudits: Eibar picked up a point for the first time as visitors against Barcelona on the road. Ronald Koeman’s questionable decision making as a coach and recurring individual errors – which seem to rise like never before – are severely troubling the club. The abysmal record without Lionel Messi in the team continues, once against proving that the squad is far from reliant right now.
The Blaugranas were slightly more fluent in possession after proceedings, however, an outrageous error at the back from Araújo put the Los Armeros ahead. Dembélé’s substitution was a massive game-changer as he waltzed down the right-hand side with flair and aggression. Eventually scoring a beautifully struck goal, Barcelona managed to equalize. Even so, a goal from the Frenchman did not faze the visitors considerably as they held their own and saw through a draw.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen: 6
The German shot-stopper was barely tested in goal. Eibar’s agile forwards did not hit the target on frequent occasions, minimizing the overall work that ter Stegen had to do in goal. However, Ter Stegen was unfortunate to concede the goal as it was beautifully finished off by Kike and particularly came as a consequence of Araujo’s lapse in judgement.
Ronald Araujo: 6.5
It was a shame to witness a flamboyant display of defending ruined by such an abhorrent error. Araujo was pivotal at winning the ball in the air; the Uruguayan won 12 of his 14 aerial duels, emerging successful in majority of his ground duels as well. His tackling was immaculate, and he brought his physicality onto the field, winning the ball emphatically frequently. Besides, he even won the penalty, which could have sealed victory for the Catalans. Unfortunately, a massive lapse in concentration was a major reason Eibar came out with a point.
Oscar Mingueza: 6.5
The Young Spaniard once again spent a fair majority of his time on the pitch to play the ball out of the back. Mingueza did an admirable job covering the right flank and diminished spaces for the Eibar forwards with his mature positioning. Much like Araujo, he demonstrated sheer confidence while playing the ball as well as engaging in tackles.
Lenglet did a satisfactory job at holding the backline, accomplishing in offering adept support to Mingueza and Araujo. More importantly, he did not make any ridiculous errors, which appeared to have spiked drastically since the start of the campaign. The Frenchman made several clearances and won a fair majority of his Aerial Duels, usually an area of concern for Lenglet.
Sergino Dest: 5
In Koeman’s reworked system, the US International had more attacking responsibilities down the right flank. Woefully, the visitors’ astute defensive structure prevented Dest from making an impact in the Final Third. His crossing was non-existent, and he gave possession away poorly frequently. Still, one element that has to be admired about Dest once again is the quality of his first touch, which invariably allows him to have the edge over his markers. Although the American sensation was solid in the defensive third, he was eventually taken off for Ousmane Dembele.
Junior Firpo: 6.5
He may have assisted the only goal of the game, but in all fairness, Firpo’s crossing ability was the only optimistic takeaway from his exhibition. While the Spaniard instilled some degree of creativity into what was a stagnant Barça offence, he failed to provide any penetration through what seemed to be an unbreakable Eibar defence. Regular dispossessions as he also struggled to regularly put in good service into the box slightly blemished his performance.
Nonetheless, his one quality play helped the Catalans save the game, and if it weren’t for Braithwaite being in an offside position, the 24-year-old would have picked two assists.
Frenkie de Jong: 7
After stringing a few immensely compelling performances in Barcelona’s midfield, Frenkie de Jong was yet another optimistic presence on the field. Notwithstanding Frenkie was not as involved in the build-ups as he would have preferred to be and was not entirely successful in bypassing Eibar’s waves of pressure — containing his vibrant and aggressive self –, the Dutchman was reliable in a majority of his ground and aerial duels, losing possession scarcely and distributing the ball moderately well.
Miralem Pjanic: 7
The Bosnian did an effective job at recycling possession and was dynamic with the ball at his feet. Pjanic managed to send in some well worked diagonal balls, which were advantageous in the final third. While the former Juve man offers such progression at the cost of defensive solidity, not operating in a double pivot appeared to have done him a world of good as he was deprived of his defensive responsibilities and could inject fluidity moving upfield.
Antoine Griezmann: 5
In the absence of Lionel Messi — who is frequently considered to be Griezmann’s biggest hurdle — the Frenchman looked lost and disoriented on the field. Griezmann was rarely ever progressing the ball forward, proving to be nothing more than a bystander. Aside from putting in a shift with his work ethic and covering large distances, the World Cup winner was a player devoid of imagination and spark as he failed to slip into useful territories and habitually floundered when prominent opportunities arose. These are the kind of games in which Antoine is supposed to prove his worth in.
In a game where there were hardly any positives to extract, the gleaming young prodigy from Tenerife was a joy to watch in possession. Albeit Pedri was not as influential as he was in his previous few outings, he was one of Barcelona’s few encouraging performers. Pedri surprisingly reigned supreme in most of his physical duels and provided 3 key passes, which dismayingly were of no avail, given the Catalans were highly wasteful up front. In times of darkness, the youngster manages to illuminate the field with the slightest of movements.
Martin Braithwaite: 5.5
In spite of finding his name on the score-sheet against Real Valladolid in Barça’s previous outing, the Dane forward failed to put his poacher’s instinct to effective use in his second game in a row as a striker. Braithwaite was seen situated in fruitful areas where he could cause damage, but could not continue his perfect underdog story as a penalty miss early in the game proved to be detrimental for the Blaugranas. In addition, the former Leganes man even wasted an ideal opportunity to give the hosts the lead as one of his goals was ruled out offside.
Ousmane Dembele: 8
Philippe Coutinho: 6
Fransico Trincao: 7
Riqui Puig: N/A
Three talking points from Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona
In the final edition of El Clásico in the 2020/21 domestic campaign, Barcelona incurred their fifth defeat of the league campaign. It was end-to-end stuff in the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, as an exceptional first-half performance from the hosts was followed up by a tantalizing second from Barça.
This game had everything someone could ask for in a Clásico. There was controversy, passion, goals and for the first time in a few years, a red card was the cherry on the top. These are Barca Universal’s takeaways from the game in the capital.
Real Madrid’s efficiency on show
With four shots on target, 1.58 Expected Goals, and two goals to their name, Real Madrid put to show their sheer efficacy in front of goal, as well as in defence. For the first half at least, Zinédine Zidane’s men were always at the right place, at the right time making all the right movements and to devastating effect.
Los Blancos‘ philosophy is one of winning, and doing so regardless of how the victory is earned. Contrary to the Catalans, who not only need to win, but also do it a certain way, Los Merengues are more than capable of abandoning their usually proactive approach to games in favour of a more reactive one. The fact that they are not bound to a specific ideology makes winning matches one of the simplest of tasks.
They held the ball for only 32% of the game, which goes completely against what a majority would expect them to. At the end of the day, however, possession matters significantly less than what one does with it. With every lapse in concentration from the Garnet and Blue, Madrid had enough men forward, and well enough positioned, to hit them where it hurt.
Despite the relatively low xG, they had enough big chances to even lead 4-0 come the halftime whistle. When it came to defending, their tight-knit defence, in stark contrast to that of their rivals, barely broke a sweat. They imposed an impenetrable low block, and applied a collective press to force as many errors as they could.
In addition to this, Zidane has the luxury of having a starting eleven of devastatingly versatile footballers in his arsenal. Fede Valverde for instance was as much a right-back as he was a central midfielder and a winger. He executed each role to pristine perfection, and so did his peers to ensure all 3 points, and bragging rights stayed in Madrid.
Excellent mentality shift
Following such a harrowing performance in the first half, few, if any, could have expected Barcelona to mount a comeback. Had this been any other team, that would have been possible, but given Real Madrid’s first-half performance, this was all but envisageable.
Indeed, the Catalans did fail to get any points from the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, however, the sheer mentality they showed in the second half was a sight for sore eyes. Ronald Koeman made the necessary adjustments to the side, reverting to the 4-3-3 and with it, they wrought trouble in the Madrid backline.
Lionel Messi celebrating the goal. pic.twitter.com/ZX1HzWSqAR— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) April 10, 2021
If in the first half Barça seemed caged in endless cycles of worthless possession, then in the second they made thorough use of it. The Blaugrana created eleven chances for themselves in the second period, and while doing this, they in turn limited Los Blancos to just a single shot on goal for the entirety of the half; a complete turnover from their performance in the opening 45 minutes.
It was nail-biting stuff up until the final second of the game, as Ilaix Moriba’s volleyed effort struck the underside of the crossbar. Given the overall performance from both sides, a draw would have been a considerably fairer result, but even in defeat with this version of Barça, the players and fans know that they can keep their heads held high.
A game of fine margins
Games of the magnitude of El Clásico will forever be decided by the most minute of details and the same was the case here.
The first significant one was the frame of the goal. In the first half, following the umpteenth counter attack from Real Madrid, Fede Valverde, who up until then was having yet another phenomenal showing against Barcelona, struck the frame of the post with a shot that crucially bounced underneath Sergio Busquets.
In the second half, Ronald Araújo nearly scored an own goal, but with Ter Stegen rooted to the spot, the ball rolled delicately onto the post and out for a corner. In the final minute of the match, and with Madrid fighting for their lives, Ilaix Moriba struck the underside of the crossbar to end this sensational tie on an emotional high.
Jordi Alba has often been criticized for being just as much a blessing offensively as he is a curse defensively. In the build-up to the hosts’ opener, he had one task to fulfill: mark his opposing fullback. This is one he absolutely failed, as he drifted too far inside, and by the time he had noticed his error, Lucas Vázquez already had Karim Benzema in his sights. Too little, too late.
The final significant detail was in the goal that won Los Blancos the game. After what many consider a poorly given free-kick from the referee’s standpoint, Toni Kroos surely could not believe his eyes when he saw the sheer state of Barça’s wall. Marc André Ter Stegen’s poor leadership of his defenders left him utterly vulnerable, and his German counterpart spared him no blushes, slotting it home to seal the victory for his side.