Real Madrid needed a good performance against Barcelona, but aside from a brief period in the second half, it showed little creativity or discipline as the hosts, without Lionel Messi, overwhelmed Julen Lopetegui's side in every department.
On Sunday, Barcelona destroyed Real Madrid 5-1 at Camp Nou in El Clasico, turning the heat all the way up on beleaguered Real manager Julen Lopetegui. It was the biggest Clasico victory since Pep Guardiola's Barça had won 5-0 in 2010, and an impressive achievement when we take into consideration that Lionel Messi was unable to participate due to injury. Led by Luis Suarez, who scored a fantastic hat trick, the hosts clicked in every department as well as providing a resilient performance in the midfield, led by Sergio Busquets.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, looked lost and lifeless, and despite changing its formation in the second half and scoring in the 50th minute, pulling with 2-1, Los Blancos ran out of ideas and hope as Barcelona continued its relentless pressure.
Despite the esteemed reputation and the club's reputable history, Madrid looks like a shadow of what it used to be. There is time to turn it around, but much needs to change.
Here are three thoughts on Sunday's El Clasico:
Credit to Ernesto Valverde's tactics
"It is hard, a defeat is always hard, even more at Barcelona," Lopetegui said after the game, when asked to contemplate on what just happened. "We had the feeling that we could have turned the game around, we had chances to equalize, go on and win."
This was probably true during a brief spell in the second half, right after Marcelo had smashed in a goal from inside the box in the 50th minute and it did indeed seem as if maybe, just maybe, the pendulum would swing the other way. But Barcelona, perhaps more so than any other team, reacts with a tremendous amount of aggression right after conceding. Lopetegui's opposite, Valverde, was excellent in his decision making and encouraged his team to keep pushing. That shook Real Madrid and Lopetegui's strategy.
Valverde brought in Nelson Semedo and Ousmane Dembele to freshen up the lineup and offer a stronger dose of pace and creativity going forward, and Madrid couldn't cope.
Jordi Alba turns in impressive performance
We are all aware of the wing back's ability to provide, as it was evident in the first goal, scored by Philippe Coutinho. But since Valverde has taken over, Alba has now become an offensive juggernaut, able to cover so much ground.
It was his vision that won the penalty for Luis Suarez to make it 2-0 and it was the left back who started the move that sealed the Uruguayan's hat trick. Defensively, he protected the left wing, reducing the threat from the visitors. Luis Enrique may have taken him out of the Spanish national team, but that may have been an incentive to improve and show why he deserves to be called the best left back in Spanish soccer.
Lopetegui needs to go
This point is less about his reputation as a manager (no one denies his abilities, see Spain before the World Cup) and more about his ability to maintain discipline with a gigantic team such as Real Madrid. There is none with Real Madrid right now, both defensively and offensively. The midfield looks lost, and maestro Luka Modric is currently directing very little in the midfield.
The key is cohesion, and Los Blancos look like individuals as opposed to a team that understands how to create. It was always going to be difficult to move on from Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, especially when the latter was not even properly replaced. Instead, a large amount of money was spent on Thibaut Courtois, a luxury signing at goalkeeper with the able-bodied Keylor Navas still in tow, and some other squad players.
Lopetegui doesn't know his squad, pure and simple. Could Vinicius Junior, omitted from the squad for the match, have helped? Who knows. What's clear is Lopetegui has no idea how to work with this team and it seems as if the best solution is for him to leave. For his and the club's benefit.