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4 winners and 2 losers from Barcelona’s 1-0 Copa del Rey win over Real Madrid

The best and the worst from a great El Clásico victory

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Spanish Copa del Rey Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Barcelona are one step closer to making the 2023 Copa del Rey Final thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 win away to Real Madrid in the first leg of their semi-final tie. Barça went into the Santiago Bernabéu without their three best players, defended for their lives and got a lucky own goal to pick up a huge victory in El Clásico and restore the good vibes after two tough losses.

Here are the winners and losers from Thursday’s action:



Frenkie de Jong: The first and only word that comes to my mind when trying to describe Frenkie de Jong’s performance at the Bernabéu is sublime. The Dutchman was at his very best, absolutely dominating the middle of the park in one of the best games he’s played for Barça. Frenkie completed 90% of his passes and was crucial in the moments when the Blaugrana needed a relief from the Madrid pressure by keeping the ball and carrying it forward several times, but it was the defensive side of Frenkie’s game that was truly impressive: he accepted and welcomed the challenge all night long and was as physical as we’ve ever seen him. What a performance.

Marcos Alonso: Replacing Andreas Christensen at the Bernabéu was always going to be a brutal challenge, and Barça fans were understandably nervous when they saw Alonso’s name in the teamsheet. But the Spaniard rose to the occasion and was fantastic on the night, dominating in the air and making crucial interventions in key moments when the defensive line could have been exposed. He also handled the Madrid high press well, knowing when to pass it short to keep the machine moving and when to kick it long to relieve the pressure. Immense credit to Alonso.

Franck Kessie: Another complete midfield performance from Kessie, who won’t get as much credit as Frenkie but was absolutely instrumental in the performance. This was the game Kessie is perfectly suited for, where he got to be very physical and anchor the midfield alongside Sergio Busquets (who was also excellent). But it was Franck’s attacking side that made the difference, playing a key part in the opening goal and making a perfectly timed run into the box to score what would have been the second goal if not for Ansu Fati’s unfortunate, accidental goal-line clearance (not Ansu’s fault, just really bad luck).

Ronald Araujo: The Uruguayan was so dominant against Vinicius Junior that the Brazilian played the final 20 minutes of the game in the middle so he wouldn’t have to deal with Big Ronald anymore. Araujo has Vinicius’ number, and while Xavi’s defensive gameplan gave him plenty of help with Jules Kounde, De Jong and Raphinha always around to support him, Araujo also held his own when isolated against Madrid’s most dangerous weapon. Just another perfect Clásico from Barça’s beast.


Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona: Semi Final Leg One - Copa Del Rey Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Vinicius Junior: Vinicius struggling in El Clásico has become a common occurrence at this point, but he was really frustrated in this one. Araujo got in his head pretty early, and once he realized Frenkie De Jong was up for the fight the Brazilian really lost the plot. His pro-wrestling-like takedown of the Dutchman was at the same time egregious and hilarious, and at no point did he really seem like a threat. All of his attempted crosses were either blocked by Araujo or claimed by Marc-André ter Stegen, and even when he moved to the middle to get away from Araujo he was met by Kounde and Alonso and had no joy either. Tough night for Vini.

Eric García: After a very poor showing in the loss to Almería, Eric saw his chances of playing meaningful minutes in the stretch run pretty much evaporate after what Alonso did in relief of Christensen in this one. This has been a rough season for García who hasn’t improved on his issues from last year and is now very clearly the last defensive option on the team, and it’s hard to see him playing at all the rest of this season unless there’s an injury crisis at the back.

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