Barcelona served up a defensive display to remember for all the wrong reasons at the Camp Nou on Sunday, Oct. 7.
A draw is by no means a harmful result, as it retains the eight-point cushion, but Tito Vilanova will be willing Gerard Pique back to fitness as soon as possible.
Real Madrid put in an exceptional performance that could and should have resulted in a win had it not been for Karim Benzema's wastefulness.
Real Madrid stuck to the tried and trusted 4-2-3-1 with Sami Khedira passed fit to join Xabi Alonso in a two-man midfield pivot, while Barca opted for their asymmetrical 4-3-3.
Issues bypassing the pivot
Barcelona really struggled to get going in this game for two main reasons. Firstly, and perhaps most perplexingly, they more or less ignored the wide areas of the pitch.
Secondly, they had a lot of trouble getting around Alonso and Khedira, who put in one of the most perfect double-pivot performances you're likely to see.
The two Los Blancos holding players were always within 15 yards of each other, played in relation to each other at all times and refused to be drawn out by cute one-twos and dinked balls.
This is the main reason Lionel Messi failed to shine aside from his superb free kick.
Issues at the back
Madrid, on the other hand, played it perfectly. Vilanova’s team failed to win this game due to bad, bad defending.
Leaving Alex Song out of the lineup was a strange decision, particularly due to the fact that Adriano—a left-back—took his place to next to Javier Mascherano.
The reason for this, supposedly, is that Song isn’t acclimatised to the nature of El Clasico just yet, but I'm not sure this decision was vindicated given the performance of the Brazilian stand-in.
There was a certifiable lack of leadership at the back for La Blaugrana, and players at this level should be doing much better on both of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals.
Madrid’s first saw the ball passed across the 18-yard line before arriving with Karim Benzema in the D. He took a second to roll the ball wide to the Portuguese forward, who smashed it in at the near post.
Take your eyes off the finish for a while and ask a couple of questions. Where’s the pressure on Benzema? He had two yards of space just outside the box. That’s unacceptable at any level, especially in El Clasico. Dani Alves, too, was positionally poor and slow to close his man down.
Benzema's miss early on saw him find acres of space at the far post with Alves seemingly unaware of his presence, while his effort that hit the post saw Adriano simply drift away from his marker in the box.
Adriano put in a full-back's performance at centre-back. He didn't stick to his man and instead looked to plug the gap in front of him. Without a central rock at the back, Barca's full-backs suffer greatly.
Jose Mourinho got it spot-on. He played the ball into the areas where he knew his team could torment the Catalan club's makeshift back line on purpose, and he even used Khedira going forward to good effect.
The title race is far from over.
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