Barcelona were second-best throughout the 3-1 loss to Real Madrid. Los Blancos managed the temp well, knew when to attack and were staunch in defense.
The goals by both sides were also demonstrative of where they are at the moment. Real Madrid used the counter to their manager in all three of their goals. The counter-attack remains an obvious weakness Barcelona have yet to rectify.
The Blaugrana’s goal after a bit of individual skill from Ansu Fati that led to a cross that ultimately reached Ferran Torres.
Sergio Busquets no longer the anchor in the Barcelona midfield
One of the players who received the most criticism in the aftermath of the Inter Milan draw was Sergio Busquets. The 34-year-old gave the ball away for Inter’s second and was pulled in the second-half.
He was once again given the start against Real Madrid and further demonstrated he’s no longer at the level required to compete in games of such magnitude. Busquets was partly at fault for Madrid’s opener. With the Catalan defense up high, Busquets failed to commit the foul on Toni Kroos. He was trying to tug at Kroos’ shirt but it wasn’t enough to bring him down, which allowed the German to slide in the ball to Vinicius Jr. which ultimately led to Benzema’s goal.
In the second, he was slow to get back and instead of staying in front of the defense, protecting against a shot from outside the box, he decided to drift and stay inside the box, leaving Federico Valverde all alone to blast through the second.
He was subbed out early in the second half in what could be the final nail in his coffin in terms of being an undisputed starter with Barcelona.
Lewandowski and the wingers problem
Robert Lewandowski was once again on an island so to speak. Despite scoring twice midweek in the Champions League, he was bereft of service all game long and had to drop deep to get a touch on the ball.
It’s no secret Barcelona would rather have him inside the box or close to it to take advantage of his lethal finishing.
One of the reasons he’s had to drop so deep is the poor form of both wingers, Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha. Aside from maybe one or two plays, both players were disappointing. The Brazilian came off during the second-half for Ferran Torres.
Xavi’s insistence on playing them makes sense because of their explosiveness down the flanks. Up until the last month, they were paying dividends.
Post international break, however, they’ve struggled to have the same influence on games which explains Lewandowski’s dip in goal scoring. If he’s not getting any service, it’s difficult to have much impact.
The team looked better after the introductions of Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati. They looked marginally better after all the subs were made. A point Xavi stressed during his post match press conference.
“The subs have gone very well,” Xavi said. “Both Gavi and Ansu, as well and Ferran, as well as Jordi Alba and Kessie.”
Perhaps it’s time some of these players — Ansu, Ferran and Kessie — start getting a run out as starters.
Inconsistencies with VAR
VAR wasn’t the reason Barcelona lost to Real Madrid. No one is, or should be, denying the fact Barcelona simply weren’t good enough and Madrid took full advantage of their deficiencies.
However, its application when it comes to how it’s being used has been inconsistent in a couple of Barcelona’s game.
In the game away to Inter, the referee didn’t take a look at the monitor on Denzel Dumfries handball. But he did when a goal was called off after a handball was called on Ansu Fati.
This time, a foul on Robert Lewandowski, inside the penalty, wasn’t called nor taken a look at by VAR. In real time, it looked like a penalty and even more so on replay.
Dani Carvajal had no intention of playing the ball, instead choosing to shove Lewandowski and got away with it.
Then, with Barcelona searching for an equalizer, Rodrygo went down inside the area. The referee initially played the game on. Then he got word from VAR to check the monitor for a possible penalty. He did so and awarded one after Eric Garcia stepped on the Brazilian.
You can debate whether or not the contact on Lewandowski was enough to call a penalty. But for the referee to not even take a look is what has to be frustrating for Barcelona. The inconsistencies when it comes to how VAR is applied need to be fixed so they are consistent. Again, even if a penalty wasn’t given, at least the referee made a thorough check.
Who knows how the game would have ended. It very well could have ended with a Real Madrid win but Barcelona would have had more time in search of an equalizer.