Barcelona drops Clasico; Madrid now 13 points behind

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Barcelona were defeated 2-1 by Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in Matchday 26 of La Liga. Lionel Messi scored the goal for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 62 percent of possession, created four goal-scoring chances and attempted four shots, two of them on target.

Let's face it: This was the Clasico that nobody wanted to play, with both teams undeniably focused on progression into the Champions League quarterfinals rather than a largely irrelevant clash to decide whether Barcelona would leave Madrid either 19, 16 or 13 points in front in the overall standings.

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Having said that, the Blaugrana were hoping to use this match as a starting point of their return-to-form journey; a chance to regain their lost form; an opportunity to bounce back after a terrible week in terms of performance and results.

Jordi Roura seemed to listen to what Cules have been demanding for months and finally decided to include the goal-scoring threat of David Villa in the Blaugrana starting eleven. In what was a clear contrast, and obviously prioritising the upcoming Champions League decider at Old Trafford given their 16 point deficit in the Spanish league, Jose Mourinho opted to field a team full of players who haven't featured much in previous matches.

As most predicted, Barcelona were given plenty of opportunity to take control of the game from the start, with Los Merengues dropping deep into their own defensive area and waiting for an eventual mistake, then counterattack with all their might using the spaces left behind by the Barcelona fullbacks.

The Clasico has historically been known by the highly-competitive nature of the two archrivals during the last century. Despite that fact though, and perhaps due to the less-relevant nature of the match thanks to the ample difference in the overall standings, the teams (especially Barcelona) failed to find that extra gear to light the game on fire.

Once again, it can be argued that the Catalans lacked freshness, rhythm, defensive intensity and the ability to create goal-scoring chances. Many will insist on the fact that Barcelona were denied of a point as the referee failed to give a clear penalty on Adriano in the dying moments.

To be honest though, I don't necessarily feel the need to argue about the referee's performance as the video images are there for all to see. More importantly, I believe the Blaugrana should have played the game more effectively earlier on to ensure a potentially adverse refereeing decision couldn't influence the overall result.

There's no two ways about it: Barcelona are obviously going through a worrying situation. The team has now received at least one goal in the last 13 matches, the worst streak since 1962 and has now collected the third defeat in four matches, their worst record since 2008. The recent results and the quality of performance against Los Blancos doesn't look too positive either and will certainly enable the Madrid-based media to talk about "the end of a winning cycle", "power-shift" or similarly hyped-up headlines.

Definitely not a great position to be in but, honestly, if someone had offered me a document which ensured Barcelona would be leading La Liga with a 13 point advantage over Real, lost the Copa semifinals and needing two goals to draw a Champions League tie against Milan at the Camp Nou at this stage, I would have signed it without hesitation.

In sport, as in life, you sometimes have to hit rock bottom before you can start picking yourself up.

After this Clasico, we can now officially confirm rock bottom has definitely been hit; I'm looking forward to see Barcelona's coaches and players working cooperatively to improve in the near future.

Player Ratings (0-10; 10=best)

Victor Valdes (5) -- Performed reasonably well when tested but couldn't do much to save either goal. Sent off for calling the referee "a disgrace" after the final whistle.

Dani Alves (3) -- Poor display. Should have pressed harder to stop the cross that enabled Karim Benzema's goal. Continuously caught up defensively, as he focused most of his energy on attacking, instead.

Gerard Pique (5) -- Generally able to bring some order to the Blaugrana back line, but beaten by Sergio Ramos in the air for the Real Madrid winner.

Javier Mascherano (5) -- Complemented Pique fairly well, tackling and intervening when needed. Not always able to match the Merengue forwards' speed though.

Jordi Alba (6) -- As usual, eager to bombard forward from the fullback position by linking with Andres Iniesta and, today, David Villa. Unlike Alves though, he was also committed to track back aggressively.

Sergio Busquets (6) -- Supported the more advanced midfielders with his confident tackles and well-selected passes. Dropped further back into more defensive positions whenever Real counter-attacked.

Andres Iniesta (6) -- Man of the Match As it happened in midweek, the Fuentealbilla midfielder was the most creative, classy Blaugrana performer but, again, was unable to find the key to open the deadlock.

Thiago Alcantara (5) -- Started one of the most important games of his career instead of Cesc Fabregas. Gave it his all, pressed for every loose ball but, ultimately, his attacking contribution and rotation movement was well-contained by the Madrid defence.

David Villa (6) -- Returned to the starting lineup and always looked capable of creating danger but, influenced by the slow pace inflicted by the Barcelona midfield, failed to write his name in the score sheet.

Lionel Messi (6) -- A spirited performance, but struggled to make that extra-remarkable impact which could unbalance the game in the Catalans' favour. Scored his 18th Clasico goal (equalling Di Stefano's record) after dribbling on-form Sergio Ramos.

Pedro Rodriguez (4) -- A forgettable performance. Didn't bring much danger despite being marked by one of the weakest defenders in the whole Merengue squad. Personally, I would have liked to see Christian Tello start / brought in much earlier instead.

Substitutes: Adriano (5), Alexis Sanchez (5)

Have your say

What did you think of Barcelona's performance vs. Real Madrid?

Who was your Man of the Match? What are your player ratings?

I welcome and appreciate all respectful feedback.

For more news and opinion notes on Barcelona, follow Francesc Tomas at @Barcablog_com and Facebook -- 33,000 Cules have already joined.

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