Today, Zinedine Zidane would be thinking, “What if Cristiano Ronaldo had not completely fluffed his lines on 10 minutes when Marcelo pulled that ball into the box..?” Ronaldo’s golden boots would not allow and the chance was gone. And maybe Real Madrid’s last chance to reel in their opponents.
We are not going to discuss what could have happened, what did happen, or the consequences – we will elaborate on the lessons that should be learned from the 3-0 defeat suffered by La Liga, European and World champions – Real Madrid.
Yesterday’s successful strategy might fail today
Life does not happen in a vacuum. It is only in a controlled environment, like a laboratory that consistent results can be guaranteed. When Real Madrid beat Barcelona over two legs in the Spanish Super Cup in August, Zinedine Zidane employed Mateo Kovacic alongside Casimero as his defensive midfield shields.
After that success, he believed that was the way to go, and also believed the Barcelona team he beat would have remained the same. But alas, Barcelona lost Neymar and gained Paulinho – a player who effectively diffused the strategy that won in August.
Self-improvement is the way
The last defeat suffered by Barcelona in 2017 was on August 16, 2-0 in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup.
Barcelona defender, Gerard Pique confessed that he felt Madrid were light years ahead of his team. Cue, 130 days later at the Santiago Bernabeu, and the Catalans handed out a 3-0 thrashing that all but knocked out the defending champions in the defence of their title.
Barcelona learned how to attack without the departed Neymar and how to be super patient when not having their way, under the new manager, Ernesto Valverde. Even the two players having a taste of El Clasico for the first time in their careers – Thomas Vermaelen and Paulinho upped their games to become better than their former selves.
Pressure is nothing without an end product
Real Madrid were utterly dominant in the first half on Saturday but had no end result to show. Like many know in football, a team needs to score most when it applies the utmost pressure on the opponent.
The best football teams know when and how to apply that pressure. By Saturday’s showing, Zidane clearly misjudged how to apply the pressure to get the needed result. A proverb says, “Make hay while the sun shines”. The winter sun was overhead Madrid on Saturday but there was no hay to be made by Madrid.
A catalyst is needed for results
Chemists understand this better. Every chemical experiment needs a catalyst to increase the rate of chemical reaction but in a tense and prestigious football match like the Clasico, every team needs that person that would precipitate the right result. Real Madrid just did not have that in their arsenal on Saturday while Barcelona had [have] the mercurial Lionel Messi.
There is always tomorrow
Both managers, Valverde and Zidane said in their post-match press conferences that the league had not been won or lost.
It just had become more difficult to win, not impossible. Life is never so bad that it cannot get better – it all depends on the reaction of the person on the receiving end.
Though it is now a 14-point lead, all is not lost for Real Madrid. There are still 19 matches to be played, that is 54 points to be won or lost – anything can still happen!
“We are sad because it is a painful defeat, but, at the same time, we will not give up – that’s for sure,” said Zidane.
“What we have to do now is to rest as much as possible. We do have a week off and we will be back stronger than before. Real Madrid (will) never surrender, whatever happens.”