Defences on top in first goalless Clasico in 17 years
El Clasico is a fixture that rarely disappoints but it did in an attacking sense on Wednesday night as the two teams delivered the first goalless draw in this fixture since 2002.
That’s a run of 49 games by the way, a pretty extraordinary statistic, and was helped by some strong defensive displays and some flimsy finishing by both sides.
Gerard Pique was the standout player in the Barca defence, batting away anything that came near him and heading off the line from Casemiro in the first half after Barca had gone to sleep at a corner.
Goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was also impressive and had a busy evening, while at the other end Luis Suarez was anonymous and Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba both missed golden chances to score.
The result means Barca are now unbeaten in their last seven Clasicos, equalling their best ever run against Madrid in La Liga, but it’s fair to say this is one they will not remember with too much fondness.
Barca make a mess of midfield
There was confusion ahead of the game as Sergio Busquets was in the team and then out of the team, and eventually Barca started with an midfield of Ivan Rakitic, Sergi Roberto and Frenkie de Jong.
The trio went on to endure a tough evening up against Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Fede Valverde and were second best for much of the match which allowed Los Blancos to control long periods of the game.
Ernesto Valverde eventually changed things by bringing on Arturo Vidal which added a bit more bite and waited forever to make another change, sending on Ansu Fati for Antoine Griezmann. How Luis Suarez stayed on for the whole 90 minutes remains a mystery.
Barca did have a settled midfield earlier this season with Arthur, Busi and De Jong, but the Brazilian’s injury has disrupted their plans. Rakitic has come in for the Brazilian so far, but this was a not a convincing display from the 31-year-old.
Arthur is not expected to return until January which means Valverde has decisions to make about his midfield against on Saturday against Alaves and could turn to Vidal or Carles Alena.
Barcelona stay top of La Liga
Barcelona failed to shine yet again in La Liga on Wednesday but despite it all remain top of the table and will be first at Christmas if they match Los Blancos’ result at the weekend.
All of that looked very unlikely on Saturday when they went 1-0 down to Mikel Oyarzabal’s early penalty, but they recovered to snatch a 2-2 draw against Real Sociedad and then followed that up with another point against Real Madrid.
The draw sees the title looking increasingly like a two-horse race once again. Both teams are now on 36 points, five clear of Sevilla in third place and seven ahead of Atletico down in fifth.
Barcelona’s final La Liga fixture of 2019 is at home to Alaves on Saturday, a fixture they won comfortably 3-0 last season and will be expected to win again. Real Madrid do not play until Sunday when they welcome Athletic Bilbao to the Santiago Bernabeu.