Heartbreak. Pain. Disaster. Crisis. There are many words which could be used to describe the way that coach Julen Lopetegui went down with a sinking ship as Real Madrid produced a Titanic-esque display at the Camp Nou on Sunday in the Clasico. Fighting for their lives and their manager’s job having dropped to ninth in La Liga earlier on in the day, Los Blancos were left humiliated by a 5-1 defeat at the hands of arch nemesis, Barcelona. Here, our tactical analysis will use statistics to identify what key points Real Madrid can take from the game in a disastrous afternoon for Los Blancos as Luis Suarez and co. ran riot on Lopetegui’s side.
It’s over for Julen Lopetegui at Real Madrid
An analysis of where it went wrong for Lopetegui could go on for so long that it would probably take longer to write than Lopetegui actually spent at Real Madrid. Sunday was no different. Leaving Alvaro Odriozola out again in favour of Nacho, and then Lucas Vazquez at half-time was baffling. Leaving Vinicius Junior out, having refused to allow him to play for Castilla and spent all week battling his suspension this weekend, was even more confusing.
Substitutions came too late and weren’t the right ones. The team were crying out for fresh legs and new impetus to try to sustain the 10 minutes of success that they enjoyed after the break. Instead, Lopetegui waited until the 77th minute and after Luis Suarez had already given Barcelona a two-goal lead again. By that point the introductions of Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz just had no impact on a side who had been zapped of all hope and energy.
Victory over Viktoria Plzen in midweek bought him time and some will say that things could have been different. Had VAR not been in play, Barcelona may never have been two goals up. Equally, had Luka Modric’s effort on the hour mark, just after Marcelo’s strike, deflected off the post and in rather than across the face of goal and out, then it could have been an entirely different game. Narrow margins, but having made so many mistakes, Lopetegui can have no excuses.
Sergio Ramos is no longer an elite defender
The form of Real Madrid’s two central defenders has been a major concern of late. Even though Raphael Varane conceded a penalty for a second consecutive La Liga match, it was Sergio Ramos who was left looking like a clown. His error directly led to Barcelona’s fourth goal, whilst also hardly covering himself in glory for any of the first, third or fifth as his positioning was caught all over the place.
In the first goal, his decision making left a lot to be desired. As shown below, Ramos’ ball-watching led to a decision which would ultimately cost his team a goal. His midfield had been caught on the counter and he was left with two decisions, halt his run to occupy the space which would be left behind in the penalty spot, or continue to run through into an area which would already be covered by the onrushing Thibaut Courtois and Raphael Varane. As a result, rather than blocking the cut back or even posing a challenge to Philippe Coutinho, by the time the ball fell to the Brazilian the Real Madrid captain was behind the goal-line.
Speaking after the final whistle about earning respect, rather than imposing it and coming just days after he was filmed lashing balls at Sergio Reguilon, perhaps it’s time for Sergio Ramos to do some self-introspection. After all, Julen Lopetegui was his suggestion for the role of coach and it’s turned out to be one of the biggest failures of Florentino Perez’s reign.
Gareth Bale either isn’t fit or isn’t good enough
This was his big chance. At last, years after making the move to Spain, Gareth Bale had a Clasico where he would be the superstar. All eyes were on him on his big chance as he looked to prove a point and establish himself as Real Madrid’s superstar in attack. Yet he failed to turn up and produced a performance even more bland than he has in other fixtures of late. Coming not long after he was hauled off in the Madrid derby at half-time due to muscle fatigue, questions can again be raised of the Welshman as he produced a sluggish display.
With just two shots, he started brightly but soon faded as his pace down the flanks turned out to not be enough to really threaten Barcelona. What should have been a real asset on the wings to help drive counter-attacks instead became slow and lethargic, with Bale taking too many touches and not finding the space as often as he should have.
His lack of involvement was so evident that he made fewer passes than in any other fixture in which he has played over 45 minutes this season. Just 19 passes reflects the way that the game passed him by. For a player of his quality and stature, it is unacceptable to allow such a high profile and important game to pass him by. If the level of quality has dropped from Cristiano Ronaldo to this Gareth Bale, it’s logical that the team will drop from third in La Liga to ninth.
The first challenge for a new coach will be organisation
From start to finish, Real Madrid were all over the place. What should have been a neatly organised midfield diamond became confused and muddled, with Isco flitting in between a role in the front three or in a midfield four. Defensively, the team was all over the place. Sergio Ramos and both full-backs continually looked to carry the ball forward and break but that left huge gaps in behind, which only Casemiro was really trying to fill.
After the break, Lucas Vazquez’s introduction offered more in attack as he effectively became another winger, helping to bombard Barcelona and produce the only 10 minutes that Real Madrid could claim to enjoy. Without Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric or anyone else being aware enough to drop back and cover him though, it left the visitors exposed to the kind of deadly counter attacks that led to Barcelona’s third goal which put the game to bed.
Antonio Conte looks likely to be the new man in charge and discipline will be one of the first things that he will look to instil in this side. He may struggle to field his preferred three man defence at first given current injuries and a shallow range of options at the back, but he will need to reign in his full-backs and captain if not.