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Three talking points from Real Madrid 4-1 Barcelona | Spanish Super Cup final

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Photo by Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images

It was not meant to be a fairytale story for Barcelona on Sunday night. Faced against Real Madrid in the finals of the Spanish Super Cup, the Blaugranas were outdone and outclassed over 90 minutes, and the scoreboard speaks everything one needs to know about the final.

There was no period in the game where Barcelona appeared close to generating a response. They were meek, unresourceful and lost for ideas in the final third, only to be hit repeatedly by Los Blancos’ counterattacks that were programmed to perfection.

The game brought to light a number of elements around the team’s recent failures, but most importantly their weak mentality, blunt attack and pliable defence. The 4-1 defeat is one that will be remembered for years to come as the team’s lowest point and most poor showing.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid 4-1 Barcelona.

Xavi’s tactical thrashing

Xavi has often been defended as a manager judged based on the failure of his players. His tactics have been questionable for a while, but it has always been individual failures on the field that have caused Barcelona’s undoing.

The final against Real Madrid last night, however, was a different case. The biggest part of the blame falls on the team’s manager and his questionable tactics on a night when the stakes were the highest.

The importance of Sunday’s clash was widely discussed as Barcelona’s one and only chance to turn their season around. A win would inject much-needed confidence into the team and lay the foundation for a strong run ahead.

Despite clearly knowing the repercussions of a defeat in the final and the sheer quality of Real Madrid’s current team, Xavi quite simply set the team up for failure.

For starters, deploying Ronald Araujo at right-back was inexcusable considering the Uruguayan’s role in stopping Vinicius Jr in recent Clasicos. It is common knowledge that the Brazilian protege has played a more central role in the team’s current 4-4-2 setup, and keeping the Uruguayan at centre-back was clearly the path to take.

By placing Araujo out wide, Barcelona no longer had the pace or instinct to neutralise Vinicius’ threat on the break. Unsurprisingly, it did not take more than six minutes before the first blow struck.

Xavi’s second big failure on the night was pushing for a very high defensive line. The defenders occupied a very advanced position on the field against Real Madrid, enabling the opponents to break open their shell with a single ball over the top.

With the defence heavily compromised, there was almost no saving Barcelona in the final. Starting four midfielders including Sergi Roberto at the cost of a genuine left-winger only made their situation worse. Too many mistakes for a game of such stakes, and the result, thus, is not surprising.

Defensive catastrophe

Disasterclass from Araujo vs Real Madrid. (Photo by Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images)

The biggest talking point from Barcelona’s thrashing at Al-Awwal Stadium, rightly so, is surrounding the team’s defence.

Once the best defence in the world, the Blaugranas’ backline has seen a steep fall in quality this season. The form of the defence was one of Barcelona’s big concerns heading into the final, and it proved to be the decisive factor.

Xavi started his strongest defence on paper, Alejandro Balde, Andreas Christensen, Jules Kounde and Ronald Araujo. However, his decision to make the French and Uruguayan stars exchange their places in the semifinal backfired.

Both Araujo and Kounde were shadows of their former selves, constantly getting undone by Real Madrid’s attacking ventures. Their distribution was questionable and they were clueless as to how to deal with the pressure in the box.

The bulk of the blame for the first goal conceded falls on Kounde, for it was his failed recovery that set Vinicius free on goal and the wrong position that played him onside. Yet, that has been the theme all season for the French star.

The second goal, quite similarly, was because of a cumulative deficiency in defence. The high line backfired, forcing the Blaugranas to a two-goal deficit.

Araujo’s performance only deteriorated as the game moved on. His mindless foul contributed to Real Madrid’s third goal on the night while the fourth goal saw Rodrygo punish Barcelona despite having eight players in the box. The Uruguayan’s sending-off perfectly capped off the team’s embarrassing night. Shambolic.

Where is Barcelona headed?

The devastating result puts into perspective Barcelona’s disastrous situation right now. Moments of magic may help them conquer lower-rated sides, but the fact remains that they are very far off from Europe’s elite.

Looking ahead, there is thus a cloud of uncertainty over their future. Are they headed in the right direction? Is Xavi the right man for the job or is his reputation preceding him and prolonging his stay?

The Catalans have indeed won trophies under his tutelage, grown as a unit and inculcated a significant degree of cohesion. Yet, there is a feeling that the development has stagnated in recent months with a tangible decrease in quality and mentality.

The Super Cup final defeat, in itself, was the humiliation of the highest level for Barcelona. The result, and the sheer manner in which it unfolded mark one of the team’s lowest points in recent times.

It could, however, get worse. It remains to be seen how the dressing room react to the thrashing in Saudi Arabia in the coming weeks and respond to adversity. Xavi still has the backing of club president Joan Laporta, but a few more results going south would seal his departure.

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