The two-week buildup to El Clásico came to a cracking close on Saturday, with the Whites from the Spanish capital spoiling Barça's tribute to Johan Cruyff with a fantastic 2-1 comeback victory at Camp Nou. As we move on to Champions League week, here is a few takeaways from a painful night for Blaugranes.
1. Zinedine Zidane is good
The Frenchman needed, perhaps more than anybody else, to prove his worth in the Clásico. Could he measure up to Luis Enrique and his well-trained men? Could he create a game plan to stop the attacking prowess of the world's best team and leave the Catalans' home with a good result? Well, Zidane did just that. He had answers for everything Lucho threw at him: great pressing to stop the buildup from the back, a compact, attentive team ready to track back and defend at all times, and great counter-attacking movements.
Everything worked. The 'MSN' was quiet and ineffective in part due to great chemistry from the Madrid defenders and midfielders who knew how and when to cover for each other and take the ball away. The 'BBC' trio defended like we have never seen, and that is a testament to the coach's talk and instructions. His substitutions were spot on when needed, and he basically outclassed the opposing coach. Good job, Zidane. You have proven yourself.
2. Luis Enrique is VERY human
I criticized Lucho in the Villarreal game for his substitutions, but every coach makes mistakes on that front. But in the Clásico Enrique took his errors up a notch. He messed up everything. He did not seem to know what Zidane's game plan was, and it took some time until his unnecessary three-man backline was dissolved and the team had good offensive possessions again.
He brought back his diamond for this game, and after almost two years as Barça coach, he should know this scheme does not favor him or suits the qualities of his men. His team lacked width, the midfielders had to cover lots of ground, and the full-backs (especially Jordi Alba) left too much space behind them, and Madrid took advantage. Then, he took off Ivan Rakitic, the midfield workhorse, and subbed in Arda Turan, who looked lost from the moment he entered the pitch.
Why not Sergi Roberto, who destroyed the game at Bernabéu? Why not a simple 4-3-3 that has been unbeaten for 39 straight matches? Why not figure out the response to Real's counter-attacks sooner? That's plenty of questions he didn't answer in a pivotal match, and that cost him a win.
But after two years, he has earned plenty of credit. He can screw up here and then. Even in the Clásico.
3. The league is not in danger
Barça fans (every fan of every sport, actually) love to overreact to losses and think this is the end of the world, the coach is bad and the players are terrible and the season is over and OH MY GOD I WANNA DIE. Calm down, people. The lead was eight points before the last two games we haven't won. You know what the lead is now? Six points. With seven games to go. And the only tough match left is the trip to Anoeta last week. Barça will not lose La Liga, the pressure from the streak is not there anymore and the Blaugrana specialize in strong responses after losses.
There is some cause for concern and there is some things that need correction. But nothing is lost. We got the league. Enjoy it.