It was the first El Clasico of the season and with much of the build up being about Zidane facing the possibility of the sack, it would prove to be a surprise to see Real Madrid came out on top to win 3-1 on hostile turd at the Camp Nou. There was a wild start to the game as the visitors scored their first goal in the first 5 minutes only to see Barca equalise within 3 minutes to get back on level terms. Then began a hectic game of press and counter press, with both teams seeking to unsettle each other. Ultimately it was Real Madrid who came on top in the second half with Ramos scoring from the spot and Modric sealing the deal at the end.
Barcelona started the game 4-2-3-1 with Messi playing centrally just behind Ansu Fati who was playing as striker, Coutinho on the left and Pedri on the right. This is not a set up which Barca has utilised in the past, as usually Fati plays on the left and Messi up front. Busquets and de Jong formed the now customary two man pivot. Stratgically, Barca forced their play through the flanks overloading and pushing players forward. This meant that Barca always had numerical superiority out wide and especially on the left flank with Alba, Coutinho and de Jong looking to bully the likes of Nacho and Valverde who were not able to cope. Alba was often left unmarked with lots of space to attack into.
In the second half Barca changed their formation to 4-4-2/4-2-4 with Coutinho and Pedri staying forward. Barcelona were on the front foot after the start of the second using the same attacking areas as they did in the first half but were missing the final killer pass from either wings. After Real's 2nd goal it become difficult for them to get behind the defence as the visitors put a 5 man back line. It was surprising to see no change in Barca's strategy after second goal as Koeman should have tried to introduce Griezmann to get that extra man running behind the defence along side Ansu Fati.
Barca lined up a 4-4-1-1/4-4-2 off the ball to counter Real's fullback Nacho and Mendy who were moving forward from the flanks. With Pedri and Coutinho pressing the fullbacks, Real were pushed back and forced to play back to defenders. Ansu Fati was told to press Real's centre back to try and win the ball as high as possible and he made a decent fist of his responsibilities.
Real Madrid started the game in their usual 4-3-3 formation with Kroos, Valverde and Casemiro in the midfield. Kroos was told to stay back and tried to control the game. This meant that Valverde had the freedom to roam forward and that helped Real well. His run was unmarked and with no extra effort he managed to get behind those defenders to score that goal. After that goal Real played slowly and tried to move from one flank to other as Barca's pressing forced them to play it back to their defenders.
In the second half Real were under the pump after the initial onslaught from Barca players so they resorted to counter attacking football. Real also changed their formation to 4-4-2 now with Benzema and Vinicius staying up top in case Real got any chances to break away. There was change in shape after the arrival of Modric as Real changed to a diamond formation in the midfield. After the second goal Real players found spaces between Barca's defence as they were pushing forward to get that equalising goal.
Real Madrid were unable to cope up with Barca trio of Coutinho, Alba and de Jong (at certain points Messi joined to make it 4 on left side) as Nacho and Valverde were getting run down on that left side. To counter this Zidane subbed in Vasquez who was more alert and reacted quickly to anything that was played to Alba or Coutinho. After the second goal Real turned to 5-4-1 with Casemiro tucking in between Ramos and Varane to get that extra central stability and enable the wing backs to fully concentrate on stopping Barca from attacking using the flanks.
Barcelona are currently in a rebuilding phase right now and with young faces coming in right now everyone in Catalonia was excited for this fixture. But in truth the Blaugrana have now failed to win their last 3 matches, a draw against Sevilla, 1-0 defeat to Getafe and now 3-1 defeat to their arch rivals Real Madrid. These are early days under Koeman, and it is clear that the road ahead is not necessarily a straighforward one. The team still looks rather dysfunctional, and it seems like Koeman is trying to keep Messi and the old guard happy whilst injecting the side with inexperienced but fresh legs. Time will tell whether this halfway house approach will yield the immediate success he needs in order to be trusted to oversee the long term overhaul.
After losing to Cadiz in the league and against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, Zidane and his boys were looking to bounce back and what a way to get back into winning ways. This was a far from comfortable performance from the Los Blancos but in the end they got their job done and now sit at the top of the La Liga table 6 points ahead of their rivals Barcelona. The attacking intent which was missing from previous Real Madrid games was seen from the get go here and this will bode well for their chance of silverware in the season ahead.
Barcelona: Neto, S. Dest, G. Pique, C. Lenglet, J. Alba, F. de Jong, S. Busquets, Pedri, L. Messi, P. Coutinho, A. Fati.
Real Madrid: T. Courtios, Nacho, S. Ramos, R. Varane, F. Mendy, T. Kroos, Casemiro, F. Valverde, Vinicius Jr., K. Benzema, M. Asensio..