Work to do for Xavi and Barcelona
Xavi and Barcelona will be left wondering ‘what if’ after seeing Real Madrid somehow depart Montjuic with all three points on Saturday to move four points ahead of their eternal rivals.
Barca had looked on course for a deserved victory until Real Madrid roused themselves and Jude Bellingham scored twice to snatch the victory.
Xavi and Gavi discuss El Clásico pic.twitter.com/PPoqQtl0Ic— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 28, 2023
The hosts could, and really should, have finished Madrid off long before then. Fermin Lopez and Inigo Martinez both hit the woodwork and Araujo felt he should have had a penalty.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid didn’t manage a single shot in the first half, for the first time in over a decade in El Clasico, and simply hadn’t looked like scoring.
The problem was that Barca couldn’t score again and, as we all know, you really have to finish off Madrid when you get the chance or else they will come back to haunt you.
Los Blancos have an unfortunate habit of winning games they really shouldn’t, and it was the same story again on Saturday night.
Xavi can take heart from his team’s performance, particularly with key players missing, but there are lessons to learn in attack and defence as Barca lose their unbeaten start to the season.
Gundogan loves a derby
Barca had gone ahead when Ilkay Gundogan showed exactly why the Catalans were so keen to bring him to the club by opening the scoring in El Clasico.
The German international, who had yet to really produce his very best for Barca, needed a shade under six minutes to break the deadlock and put Barcelona in front at Montjuic.
It’s the second fastest goal ever scored by a Barcelona player in a Clasico, after a certain Neymar.
2 - Ilkay Gundogan (05:57) has scored the second fastest goal in #ElClásico in any competition for @FCBarcelona in the 21st century after Neymar in October 2014 in @LaLigaEn (03:02). Early. pic.twitter.com/xAqvGGk8sP— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 28, 2023
Gundogan has now scored in Der Klassiker, the Manchester derby and El Clasico during his career, showing he really is the man for the big occasion.
The German’s performance was one of the reasons why Barcelona dominated Real Madrid for long spells.
Indeed Xavi’s changes in the second half disrupted the partnership between Gavi and Gundoga and Barca’s momentum which helped Madrid go on to get the win.
Gavi and Fermin stand out for beaten Barca
Saturday’s result will undoubtedly hurt Barcelona but the performances of youngsters Gavi and Fermin Lopez should soften the blow a little for supporters.
Gavi was the best player on the pitch and seemed to be simply everywhere. The tears in his eyes and frustration on his face at the final whistle as he applauded Barcelona fans said it all. We all knew exactly how he felt.
“Gavi was sensational. He played a great match. He’s the soul of the team,” said Xavi afterwards. “Today, he played more as a pivot and he did very well. He gives us the intensity that is fundamental in this team.”
And he had his good mate for company too. Kudos to Xavi for handing Fermin a start in such a crucial game and the 20-year-old really didn’t disappoint.
He looked completely at home against Real Madrid and was a little unfortunate not to score again.
“Fermín has the perfect conditions to be a Barça player for many years, I have already said it several times and today he has shown it on a great stage,” Xavi said. “It is a shame today’s result because there are several players who have had a great performance.”
Throw Lamine Yamal into the mix, with the teenager becoming the youngest player ever to feature in the famous fixture, and there is still a lot to look forward to at Barca this season.