FC Barcelona suffered its first loss of the La Liga season, as El Blaugrana suffered a 3-1 defeat against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday night. Luis Suarez made his debut in a Blaugrana kit, as manager Luis Enrique decided to go with Luisito in his starting XI.
Neymar got the scoring started in the fourth minute as a lovely cross from Suarez found Ney on the other side of the pitch, then the Brazilian turned up the speed toward the middle of the pitch, got past Dani Carvajal, and slammed the ball past a diving Iker Casillas for the golazo.
Cristiano Ronaldo hit the crossbar in the 10th minute, and just a few seconds later, Karim Benzema's shot hit off the post. Lionel Messi had a great chance in the 23rd minute, but his close shot was saved by Iker Casillas. A handball on Gerard Pique was called in the 34th minute inside the box, and Ronaldo put it past Claudio Bravo to make it 1-1 in the 35th minute.
In the second half, Pepe gave Madrid the lead in the 51st minute as his header got past a diving Bravo for the 2-1 advantage. Benzema made it 3-1 in the 60th minute as Isco's hustle caused an Andres Iniesta mistake which led to a Madrid break. Ronaldo passed it up to James Rodriguez who then teed up Benzema who finally slammed it to the far post and into the back of the net for the 3-1 score line. Isco, Marcelo, Benzema, Casillas and Carvajal all had solid performances for Madrid. Barcelona looked poor and deserved the 3-1 loss.
Poor showing by the Barça players
Neymar, Javier Mascherano, and Claudio Bravo were the best for Barcelona. Dani Alves was OK at times, but Marcelo kept passing by Dani in the first half—one of those plays resulted in the Pique handball called PK. Every other Barça player looked poor: Messi, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, etc. I'll give Luis Suarez a pass because this was his first competitive game in months.
Whenever Sergio Busquets has a bad game, Barcelona has a bad game. And as we saw on Saturday night, Busi was poor, couldn't control the midfield, and it effected the team's overall poor showing.
For me, the game changed when Casillas stopped Messi's close shot in the first half. If Leo would've scored, Barcelona go up 2-0 in the first half and it forces Real Madrid to play more aggressively and take more risks on defense via pushing their defenders forward, which would potentially lead to Barcelona counterattacks and a greater chance for Barcelona goals. Instead, Casillas got the save on Leo's shot, kept it 1-0, and the rest is history.
Let me say that the officiating was horrendous, as usual in a Clásico and any Liga game. Barcelona got yellow cards and Madrid kindly didn't get their first until later in the second half.
Despite the poor officiating, there is no excuse for this loss. Barcelona looked slow, uninterested at times, and lacked creativity.
The heat will come to Lucho, and deservedly so
While the players have their part of the blame, it's the manager's responsibility to prepare the players and use the right players for the right game.
This was not the best lineup for the game.
Jeremy Mathieu should have stayed on the bench, as Jordi Alba would have added more dynamic opportunities for the offense while having the speed to get back on defense. Jeremy has speed, but Alba is better on offense and setting up his teammates with passes and goal-scoring opportunities, if/when needed. As much as I love Xavi, perhaps it would have been better to start Ivan Rakitic. The move I did like from Lucho is having Mascherano at CB over Mathieu. Historically, El Jefecito always plays great against Madrid, and on Saturday, Javier did just that.
The game was going at such an intense rate, especially in the first half, which does not favor FC Barcelona. What did Lucho do to stop this? It's on him to make the right tactical moves.
Yes, it's easy to look back and say "Lucho should have done this" or "done that," especially with the type of loss this game was. But for me, I am wondering why Luis Enrique didn't go with his regular starting XI against Real Madrid? Did he not think his regular lineup was capable enough of slowing down Madrid? And what about Marc Bartra? He is more than capable of playing well in a Clásico. He's done it before. Shouldn't Bartra deserved to have started the game?
After the game, Luis Enrique told the media he had no regrets of starting Luis Suarez. "I don't regret letting Suarez start. He's with the squad from the start, he did well, better than I expected." Lucho also stated, "Defeats are part of football and of the learning process. We'll see at the end of the season if we deserved something."
The shine is coming off Luis Enrique. Yes, all game are part of the learning process, but how long until you, Lucho, and this team has learned its lesson and used the knowledge learned to win a game against a "big" opponent? First, it was Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League, now it's El Clásico. FC Barcelona is about winning against all opponents, not just the little ones and looking so poor against major ones.
Will this Barcelona team get better? I say the offense will get better due to Luis Suarez now on the pitch. It will take a while for the chemistry between Neymar, Messi and Suarez to get going, but in due time, the trio will become the triple threat the football world is waiting to see.
Aunque ahora es un momento difícil tenemos que pasar página y seguir trabajando. Confío mucho en el equipo y juntos vamos a seguir adelante!— Luis Suarez (@LuisSuarez9) October 25, 2014
Translated: "This is tough, but we need to turn the page and keep on working. I really believe in this team and together we'll move forward!"
As for the Barcelona defense, I don't see it getting much better. Perhaps a starting CB duo of Bartra-Mascherano is the best option for big matches because right now, Gerard Pique isn't cutting it. Mathieu has his good moments, but I'd take Bartra-Masche for now. As for Thomas Vermaelen, I'm just hopeful he can give Barcelona some good performances in Copa del Rey and/or in "non-big" Liga games.
Now with El Clásico done, Luis Enrique has managed his Barcelona team in a big game in the Champions League and in La Liga. Is the learning over? With Luis Suarez back, his team's front line is 100%. Iniesta may be out with a thigh injury, but he still has Ivan Rakitic, Xavi, and a great, young up-and-coming Rafinha healthy.
Now, there shouldn't be any more
excuses learning lessons, right?
I hope so.
So now what's next?
FC Barcelona is still ahead of Real Madrid in the Liga table, but their lead over Los Blancos is now just one point. Barcelona will get some rest as their next game is on Saturday against Celta Vigo at the Camp Nou.
Luis Suarez needs as many minutes as he can to get back into full game shape, so Luisito deserves to start. Marc Bartra and Martin Montoya deserve a start as well, especially Bartra. With potentially Andres Iniesta out with injury, I'd rather see Rafinha get playing time over Sergi Roberto who regularly contributes nothing when on the pitch (honestly, I'd rather see Barça B's Alen Halilovic at midfield over Sergi Roberto any day).
Xoel's Final Word
I can accept losing to Real Madrid because they were the better team on Saturday night and took advantage of Barça's mistakes. But what I cannot accept is seeing Barcelona look so poor, slow and uncreative.
Individual performances cannot and will not win you major trophies. It's all about the overall team play and the overall team performance.
Now more than ever, this FC Barcelona team—including the manager—has to go to work in the training ground as well as mentally find that anger, that passion, that swagger, that driven determination to rise up and march on toward a multiple trophy-winning season. They are more than capable of doing so, now it's time to move on, march on and win as a team.
Lessons learned. No more excuses.
Time to show the football world you don't need any more teachings.
Time to show the football world you are the masters, not the students.
Keep your head up, Culés. FC Barcelona will bounce back...they always do.
Visca el Barça i Visca Cataluna!
Xoel, The Voice of Els Culés