Barcelona were not just beaten by Real Madrid on Tuesday, they were outclassed. Despite an initial period of dominance, the Blaugrana simply couldn’t make the breakthrough against a disciplined Madrid defense; and by the time they did, it was too late. Courtesy of a brace from Cristiano Ronaldo and a header from Raphael Varane, Real were 3-0 up by the time Jordi Alba scored; they had a game-plan, and they executed it perfectly.
The question is: does Barcelona have an answer to that game-plan?
On their day, I maintain that Barcelona can defeat Real Madrid. They have done it before; they can and will do it again – it’s simply a matter of whether they perform to their full potential. However, as many have noted, it’s unlikely that Barcelona will have markedly improved since Tuesday – perhaps they need a slight tactical rethink; nothing drastic – above all, Barça need to keep their faith in the system, but a few tweaks couldn’t hurt: especially if those tweaks help address the glaring weaknesses Madrid exposed at the Camp Nou.
Idea One – Alves on RW
One of the main criticisms of Barcelona’s attack on Tuesday was that no-one tracked back. Granted, it isn’t their job to defend – it’s their job to score – but sometimes the defense requires a little assistance, especially against opposition as dangerous as Real Madrid. With that in mind, why not push Dani Alves forward to the right-wing?
Alves would not only be able, but willing to track back, and his presence on the right-wing might bring the best out of Lionel Messi as well. The duo are renowned for their almost telepathic understanding with one another and, while Messi wasn’t exactly at his best on Tuesday, he almost certainly would have benefitted from a "partner in crime" so to speak. Adriano would take Alves’ place in defense and given his (albeit brief) experience of playing centre-half, the Brazilian may allow the Blaugrana defense to cover for the attack-minded Jordi Alba.
Idea Two: Mascherano at pivote – Sergio Busquets in midfield
With Xavi injured, Barcelona need a replacement – and who better to replace Xavi than Sergio Busquets? Composed in possession with an eye for a pass, Busquets is more than capable of performing the "Xavi role"; the only problem is that no-one else is quite as accomplished as Busquets at playing the...well, Busquets role. After all, in his time with the senior team, Busi has not only displaced Yaya Toure, but he’s secured his own place in the pantheon of all-time midfield greats. On the other hand, before Barcelona converted Javier Mascherano to centre-half, the Argentine was arguably the world’s premier midfield destroyer. Surely the solution is obvious?
Au contraire whenever Mascherano has played at pivote, disaster usually follows – think back to Hercules for a reminder – so why should Roura even consider it as an option? Well, Busquets would still be on the field, and if necessary, Barça would have the personnel to change to a rather risky 3-4-3 (or even another 4-3-3 with Carles Puyol at right-back). With both Busi and Masch on the field, Jordi Alba and Dani Alves would be free to maraud up and down the flanks without fear of repercussions – providing the Blaugrana with width and potentially stretching the Madrid defense.
Idea Three – Adriano at CB
Barcelona moved Adriano to heart of defense in the last La Liga Clasico out of necessity; although given the threat that Real Madrid pose on the counter-attack – one could argue that Barcelona are in desperate need of some kind of a solution to that problem. Virtually all the Madrid attacks were directed down the left-flank – and if Adriano starts at centre-half, he would be in an excellent position to cover for his colleague. Sergio Busquets is adept at dropping deep to form a three-man defense when necessary, although in doing so, he does open up a sizeable gap between the Barça defense and midfield.
Therein lies the problem with each of the "ideas" – in principle, they may solve a particular problem, but as Barcelona attempt to solve one "problem", they may make another worse or alternatively create new ones that they have to contend with. Sure, Alves could play in attack, Busquets could play in an advanced midfield role and Adriano could play at centre-half, but is it worth the risk? Instead of focusing on a new system, or even any tactical rethink, perhaps the Blaugrana would be better advised to simply continue with their original game-plan. Whenever Andrés Iniesta starts in midfield with Lionel Messi, David Villa and Pedro in attack – three points usually follow.
Do you believe that Barcelona need to adapt their game-plan if they want to defeat Real Madrid, or do you have faith in the team to pull through regardless of whether Roura makes a tactical change?