It’s the 53rd minute. Barça have just scored through Andres Iniesta. 3-0.
That game finished 4-0. A Messi-less Barça managed to down Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, encapsulating a trend of dominance for the Catalan club at Madrid’s home. Barça have won eight of the previous eleven meetings between the two clubs (away from home). A staggering record. Even more so considering the fact that Madrid dominated the football landscape in the second half of the 2010s.
This article ranks the five best Clasico wins at the Bernabeu. It was a tough decision; several thrillers didn’t make the cut. The ones that did, however, are some of the best games of football in recent memory.
5. Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona
Ernesto Valverde’s unbeaten Barça came into this as favorites, against a Madrid side that had had a mixed start to the Liga campaign. Valverde fielded a conservative 4-4-2 with Alba, Vermaelen, Pique and Roberto forming the back four along with Iniesta, Busquets, Rakitic and Paulinho in midfield. Uninspiring, yes, but very effective. Paulinho had found a rich vein of form at the time and had formed a good link with Messi, covering space on the right when Messi cut inside and running into the box to create havoc.
Zidane, on the other hand, had fielded a 4-1-3-2, with Casemiro as a pivot and Kovacic in the hole. Kovacic had been a surprise addition, deployed to cover Messi in the right half-space.
It was very much a game of two halves, with Madrid having the better chances in the first and Barça dominating in the second. Luis Suarez opened the scoring in the 54th minute, blasting in a drilled effort after some good work by Rakitic and Roberto. Barça doubled their advantage through a Messi penalty, ten minutes later, after Carvajal saved a Paulinho header with his hand and got himself sent off in the process. A third came late on, with Messi squaring the ball for an incoming Aleix Vidal. 3-0. Easy as you like it.
Barça finished the game with three goals, 18 shots (11 on target), 56% possession and an xG of 3.71 (to Madrid’s 1.30). It was a clinical performance. Barça were in the throes of their Valverdesque transformation and this performance was a perfect example. Not entirely without faults, but convincing enough.
4. Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona
Many remember this game for that Messi masterclass, and rightfully so. In the first leg of a tense semi-final fixture, Messi took the Madrid defense to the cleaners with two wonderfully worked goals. Pep fielded a 4-3-3 with Puyol, Busquets, Pique and Alves in defense, Seydou Keita, Mascherano and Xavi in midfield, with Messi, Pedro and Villa up top. Mourinho, on the other hand, went with a 4-1-2-1-2 diamond, with Marcelo, Ramos, Albiol and Arbeloa in defence, Pepe, Diarra, Xabi Alonso and Ozil in midfield alongside Ronaldo and Di Maria up top. Typical Mourinho, then.
The game was a tight affair, all things considered (both teams managed a total of 14 shots). However, the complexion of the game changed in the 61st minute, when Pepe was sent off for a boots-up challenge on Alves. Barça scored soon after, in the 76th minute, with Messi getting at the end of a low cross by Afellay. Messi doubled his tally in the 87th, by scoring what can only be described as a ‘worldie’. After taking the ball from Busquets, the Argentine danced past five defenders before slipping the ball beyond the reach of a hapless Casillas. It is one of ‘those’ goals. One of the purest exhibitions of genius in the history of sport.
Barça finished the game with two crucial away goals and progression all but guaranteed.
3. Real Madrid 0-4 Barcelona
Enrique’s Barça came into this game, without Messi yes, but with a three-point lead at the top and an in-form duo of Neymar and Luis Suarez. In the absence of Messi, Enrique started Roberto on the right-hand side, alongside Neymar and Suarez, while opting for a midfield trio of Rakitic, Busquets and Iniesta and a back four of Alba, Mascherano, Pique and Alves. Rafa Benitez, too, fielded a full strength side with an attacking quartet of Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale and Rodriguez.
Barça were at Madrid’s throat right from the off and broke the deadlock early, with Suarez getting on the end of a lovely 24 pass move with an emphatic outside of the boot strike. 1-0. They doubled their advantage in the 39th minute when Iniesta threaded a ball through for Neymar, who slotted it in against an advancing Keylor Navas. Iniesta himself got on the scoresheet in the 53rd minute. The Spaniard blasted the ball in the top corner after receiving it via a Neymar backheel. Suarez capped the rout with a chipped finish, rubbing salt into the wound.
A deep wound, indeed. Barça ended the game with 18 shots (7 on target), 59% possession and a six-point cushion at the top of La Liga. It was the Suarez and Neymar show like we’d never seen it. And it was electrifying.
2. Real Madrid 3-4 Barcelona
In his first (and only) visit to the Bernabeu as Barcelona manager, Tata Martino oversaw a seven-goal thriller and in doing so, kept his side’s La Liga hopes alive. He fielded a very strong lineup, with Xavi, Busquets and Fabregas in midfield alongside Neymar, Messi and Iniesta in attack. Ancelotti fielded a similar a 4-3-3 with Modric, Xabi Alonso and Di Maria as the midfielders. In attack, he employed the familiar front three of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano.
Barca went ahead early through Iniesta, who thundered the ball into the right top corner with his left after being played on by Messi. Barça found themselves behind, however, after two quick strikes by Benzema, in the space of four minutes. Barca pulled level in the 42nd, through a lovely Messi goal. That was when the game got feisty, however, with Ramos eventually seeing red in the 63rd minute; Messi drew Barça level via the subsequent penalty, after Ronaldo had pulled Madrid ahead through a penalty of his own, minutes earlier. That was not it, however. There was another twist in the tale, as the referee gave the third penalty of the game Barça’s way. Messi scored. 4-3. Game over.
This game was tense in every sense of the word. It was fraught with indiscipline, yes, but it did have moments of footballing brilliance, especially from Messi and Di Maria.
1. Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona
A classic. And a worthy number 1. Barça came into this game trailing in the La Liga race, three points behind a Madrid side that also had a game in hand. It was do or die for the Catalans. Lose and the league is lost. With that in mind, Enrique fielded a strong eleven; starting Roberto, Pique, Umtiti and Alba at the back, Busquets, Iniesta and Rakitic in the middle of the park along with Messi, Suarez and Alcacer up top. Zidane fielded his strongest possible eleven, starting with Casemiro, Kroos and Modric in midfield and Cristiano, Bale and Benzema in attack.
The first half was a feisty affair. Lots of fouls, lots of refereeing and a bleeding mouth. Real took the lead through Casemiro, who got on the end of a Ramos rebound. Barça equalised through Messi just five minutes later; the Argentine skipped past two (tissues and all) and drilled the ball into the net. Rakitic gave the Blaugrana the lead in the 73rd minute by blasting one into the net after a neat fake shot. The away side’s joy was short-lived. Rodriguez equalised for the Meringues in the 85th, seemingly ending Barça’s title hopes. A Messi goal was written in the stars, however. Sergi Roberto brought the ball from his own 18 yard box into the opposing half. He passed it to Gomes, who then laid it off for a charging Alba. Alba, in typical fashion, cut the ball back for an incoming Messi who slotted it in. Easy as you like. 3-2.
This game truly had it all. Injuries, scuffles, late drama. You name it. Truly spectacular.