The Clasico on Thursday night was surely one of the most unusual, where normal roles were changed. Barcelona was defending and counterattacking, while Real Madrid were dominating the possession and building their game in their opponent's half. Even before Sergi Roberto was sent off, the situation was the same. It is strange to watch such a game after getting used to watching the exact opposite in recent years. Yet, this new and surprising battle between Barca and Real revealed some crucial deficiencies on both sides.
Firstly, let us start with Barcelona, whose decision to sit back and rely on counterattacks was the dominant factor in the course of the game. When Clasico was in Bernabeu in 2017, Barca won the game decisively with their usual game.
Real Madrid was unable to launch numerous counterattacks since they rarely got the ball in the game, and when their stamina went low, Barca pushed the game into their half and finished it off. It seems that this time Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde was intimidated by Real Madrid's latest achievements in the Champions League, and he did not even take the smallest chance of leaving space in his half to Real.
Interestingly, Barca managed to play the game they wanted and scored a goal. Despite Cristiano Ronaldo's equalizer, they were in control of the game more than Real Madrid. Nonetheless, a red card changed the course of the game dramatically, and the second half of the game was torture for Barcelona. They literally organized nothing offensively, and despite Lionel Messi scoring and giving Barca the lead again, it was obvious that Real was going to score given their domination in Barca's half. Honestly, Barcelona should be glad that Real Madrid was rather untalented in the final third and they managed to get away with a draw.
On the other hand, there are some serious questions over Real Madrid's game as well. First and foremost is how come Barcelona was sitting so far back and letting their opponent play their game, yet Real was not able to find enough opportunities? They had everything; time, space and enough manpower in the final third, but aside from Ronaldo and Gareth Bale's individual efforts, Real was unable to create opportunities. Since they were used to playing counterattacking so often, their build-ups in Barca's half seemed immature and rushed, proving my point in my last piece that Zinedine Zidane has no specific plan for utilizing collective power in the final third.
Furthermore, it was also proven that Real Madrid is highly dependent on Cristiano Ronaldo's skills, and becomes offensively dull without him. Without Ronaldo, all they were able to do was pass the ball hopelessly in the final third and then cross it into penalty box in chaos. If Liverpool can utilize this deficiency in the final and force them to slow down, Zidane's team will surely have some trouble.