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Route one Real Madrid ride luck to beat Barcelona in El Clasico

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Only one team in it

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

It was quite clearly not the result that every Barça fan hoped for, but in many respects the performance couldn’t be faulted.

Ronald Koeman picking a back three of Mingueza, Araujo and Lenglet was always going to test the trio but it’s about time we had a coach that continued to make brave and bold decisions.

How often was Valverde castigated for being too conservative?

If there is one criticism to level at Koeman, it is perhaps the inability to get the better of Zidane over both games, and this one in particular given that Real’s defence was depleted even before kick-off, let alone when Lucas Vazquez went off injured.

Referee, Gil Manzano, needs to take a long, hard look at himself too.

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Let’s not forget that this was the referee who once left Villarreal’s stadium with a Real Madrid bag of goodies.

A number of his decisions deserve wider scrutiny, but that would also be to take away from the good things that Los Blancos did in the game.

Much as we’d hate to admit it, they did the basic things better for long periods.

Their football is nowhere close to Barca’s style in terms of being aesthetically pleasing, but when all you’re concerned about is getting the three points, does it really matter how pretty your football is?

In terms of individual performances across the 90 minutes, it’s difficult to pinpoint anyone who had a great game.

Messi was man-marked out ofit once more and wasn’t helped by lacklustre deliveries in-play from the likes of Dembele and Dest.

Pedri continues to delight and De Jong showed his qualities at times in his more natural position. Mingueza showed enough to justify his manager’s decision too.

Two-thirds of possession also speaks of a match in which the Blaugranes enjoyed a typical nights work, albeit without appropriate reward in the end.

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

In the grand scheme of things, however, this result was never going to be decisive whichever way it went, and the Catalans are still very much in the title picture.

It’s an opportunity missed when you consider that Barça would’ve been five points ahead of Real had they won mind.

Switching the narrative for a moment, if anyone had said at new year that Barça would be unbeaten from that point going into mid-April, and also be in with a chance of a league and cup double, you would’ve taken it.

It’s never great to lose the biggest game of the season and that’s the third El Clasico loss on the trot now.

However, the team are still growing so perhaps this has to be put down to experience and the Blaugranes should look forward to better days ahead.