Zidane’s Real Madrid are on the brink of history after a draw against Barcelona on Saturday. Los Blancos remain six points ahead of the Catalan giants at the top of La Liga, and are one game shy of the club’s all-time unbeaten record of 34 games.
Barcelona came into the game on the back of two consecutive draws and have been under criticism this season. The team hasn’t been performing at the levels they’re expected to be and came into the Clasico hoping a win would turn their fortunes around. Real Madrid have not been playing at their full potential, either, despite their unbeaten run. It was tough to predict a winner going into the game.
Madrid were without Toni Kroos and Gareth Bale for this one, and Andres Iniesta was not fit enough to start for Barcelona. Despite that, Zidane put out a strong lineup of players that have been in fine form. It finished 0-0 at halftime, as both teams struggled to create clear opportunities in the opening 45 minutes. Despite that, Real Madrid looked to be the much better side. They were very organized and looked confident both on the ball and defense. They were winning the midfield battle with Isco, Modric, and Kovacic all playing well. Barcelona, in comparison, looked very timid and unsure of themselves, though this would all change in the second half.
Real Madrid had been faultless up until Raphael Varane carelessly gave away a free kick in a dangerous position. This was the chance Barcelona were looking for as Neymar whipped in a brilliant ball that Luis Suarez heading into the back of the net. The celebrations showed exactly how much this meant to the home side. Shortly after, Iniesta came into the match, and Barcelona looked like themselves again. The goal and the introduction of the Spanish midfielder completely changed the dynamic of the game. Barcelona began passing the ball around with fluidity, looking much more comfortable now. They had a chance to go 2-0 ahead when Neymar cut inside to create a brilliant opportunity for himself from close range, but he ended up shooting it high into the sky. Later, Lionel Messi had another chance that he scuffed wide of the post. The Catalans were looking the better side now, but could not finish their chances.
This left Real Madrid with hope that they might still get something from this game. Despite not being at their best for most of the season, Real Madrid have developed a very strong mentality in recent seasons. They never give up. They fight until the very end. “Hasta el final” is their motto. And no player embodies this mentality better than their captain, Sergio Ramos. He has scored many important goals in big games for his club, most notably in 2014 and 2016 in Champions League finals. Mr. 92:48 or minuto 93, whatever you call him, he always seems to pop up when Real Madrid need a savior in a big game.
Arda Turan gave a free kick away late in the game that created one last chance for Real. Luka Modric whipped in a cross that was headed in by Sergio Ramos in the 90th minute. The 99,000 inside the Camp Nou went silent as they watched the celebrations of the Madrid players. Barcelona, who seemed to have finally gotten their swagger back, looked crushed as the referee blew the whistle for full time. Luis Enrique must rally his troops for the next game after this disappointing result for his team.
Madridistas will be happy with the result. But after the game, Zidane said that this is “just one point, not three”. That should be encouraging for fans, since they wouldn’t want him or the players to get carried away. Although they are six points ahead, it is important to keep in mind that the season is not even halfway over yet.. Real Madrid have put themselves in a great position, but they still have a long road ahead of them if they want to become champions.