Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona: Player ratings as Los Blancos edge entertaining Clasico

Goals from Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos were enough to earn Real Madrid a 2-1 win over Barcelona in El Clasico, moving Los Blancos above rivals Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga.

La Blaugrana dominated the ball throughout the first half but it was the hosts that broke the deadlock after 14 minutes. Federico Valverde broke forward at pace and released Lucas Vazquez into the channel, before the Spaniard crossed for Benzema to sensationally back-heel past a despairing Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Zinedine Zidane’s men then doubled their advantage in the 28th minute, when Kroos’ free kick flew into the back of the net via a deflection off Sergino Dest.

Barcelona continued to see the lion’s share of the ball after the interval and eventually pulled one back on the hour mark. Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba linked up well down the left before the Spaniard crossed the ball into the box for Oscar Mingueza to poke home after a clever dummy from Antoine Griezmann.

Casemiro’s late red card made things awkward for Zidane’s side, but despite increased pressure and Ilaix Moriba crashing the ball onto the crossbar in the final seconds, Real Madrid held out for their third consecutive El Clasico win.

Here’s how the players rated…

Lucas Vazquez assisted Real Madrid’s opening goal | JAVIER SORIANO/Getty Images

Thibaut Courtois (GK) – 7/10 – Made a few crucial saves, keeping his side in front on a couple occasions.

Lucas Vazquez (RB) – 8/10 – Unfortunately forced off through injury just before the half time whistle, but was fantastic for his stint on the pitch. Always quick to nip in and win the ball, while also surging forward brilliantly – notably assisting the opener.

Eder Militao (CB) – 7/10 – Marshalled the opposition well and didn’t allow Barcelona to break in behind. Made seven interventions.

Nacho Fernandez (CB) – 7/10 – Stayed skin tight to Lionel Messi for the most part and stifled a number of attacks.

Ferland Mendy (LB) – 6/10 – Another decent display, making some vital tackles on the edge of his area. Brought the ball out of defence nicely to drive his side upfield.

Casemiro (DM) – 7/10 – A solid performance in front of the back four, breaking up play more times than you’d dare to count (we did, it was nine ball recoveries). Spoiled his evening by seeing red.

Toni Kroos (CM) – 8/10 – Didn’t see much of the ball as Barça dominated possession, but moved it on quickly and effectively when he did. A lucky deflection saw his free kick go in; but it’s a goal, so who cares?

Luka Modric (CM) – 7/10 – Energetic, aggressive and offered a little more quality than Barcelona had to offer. Hard to believe this man is 35 years of age.

Federico Valverde (RW) – 8/10 – Did his job brilliantly. Played as a right back when out of possession and marshalled Jordi Alba well, while blisteringly breaking forward when possible.

Karim Benzema (ST) – 9/10 – Played the role of leader to perfection. His work rate was faultless, his link up play was always progressive and he scored a beautiful goal to get his side going.

Vinicius Junior (LW) – 8/10 – Really threatened Barça at times, and looked creative when driving at the back line. Made three key passes and won the free kick which Kroos converted.

Alvaro Odriozola (RB) – 6/10 – Made a few crunching tackles during his time on the field, specifically one on Messi as Barca were breaking forward.

Marco Asensio (RW) – 6/10

Mariano Diaz (ST) – 6/10

Isco (CM) – 6/10

Marcelo (LW) – 6/10

Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – 6/10 – Had no chance with either goal and actually made a fantastic stop to keep the score at 2-0 in the first half.

Oscar Mingueza (CB) – 7/10 – Had a thrilling battle with Vinicius Junior and, although he probably lost it, the Barça man was strong and composed for the most part. Grabbed himself a goal to cap off a decent performance.

Ronald Araujo (CB) – 6/10 – Read the game and covered his colleagues well, making a few good interventions. Not the imposing figure Gerard Pique so often is.

Clement Lenglet (CB) – 5/10 – Unusually looked uncomfortable on the ball. Looked rushed under pressure and sloppily lost possession on several occasions.

Frenkie de Jong, Toni Kroos
Frenkie De Jong showed great energy in midfield | Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Sergino Dest (RWB) – 4/10 – Couldn’t make any sort of impact in advanced areas and exposed his central defenders to the pace of Vinicius. Sacrificed at half time for a change of shape.

Frenkie De Jong (CM) – 6/10 – Looked more threatening in his usual central midfield spot. Added an extra body in the final third and linked up play nicely to get the ball through Real’s lines.

Sergio Busquets (CM) – 6/10 – Made a few good interceptions to stifle counter attacks but, in general, was overrun against the dynamism and energy of Los Blancos’ midfield.

Jordi Alba (LWB) – 6/10 – Found very little joy going forward as he was constantly outnumbered. Managed to bag an assist when afforded the space, but was too weak in tackling Valverde in the build up to Real’s first.

Lionel Messi
Disappointment for Lionel Messi | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Lionel Messi (RW) – 6/10 – Had moments of brilliance and always looked likely to create something. Couldn’t quite find his usual genius.

Ousmane Dembele (ST) – 5/10 – Never really managed to spin his marker and run in behind. Was given very little space and, even when pushed out wide, was closed down and nullified instantly.

Pedri (LW) – 6/10 – Floated around freely and was quick and effective on the ball to get play up the field. Made two key passes.

Antoine Griezmann (LW) – 6/10 – Played a brilliant dummy as Alba’s cross was coming into the area, allowing Mingueza to pounce behind him.

Ilaix Moriba (CM) – 6/10 – Desperately unlucky to not steal a point at the death, smashing the ball onto Courtois’ bar.

Sergi Roberto (CM) – 6/10

Martin Braithwaite (ST) – 5/10

Francisco Trincao (RW) – 5/10


Real Madrid in La Liga title driving seat after superb Clasico display

Thank heavens the football Gods decided to put El Clasico front and centre stage on Saturday evening.

The Premier League decided to take the evening off from pitting Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion against each other for the 17th time this season, instead putting their feet up to watch some proper football.

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And wasn’t that the best decision they’ve made in a while?

Many probably assumed that Saturday’s clash would have been a bit of a damp squib. After all, the quality of football this season has dipped around the world, La Liga and their giants are far from the peak of their powers, and the fact that the match was being played at Real Madrid’s training ground made it all feel a bit meh.

That, of course, was pre-kick off vibes. One thing that was stacked in this clash’s favour was its significance on the top of the table. Atletico Madrid started the night at the summit, knowing it’d be unlikely they would be there a couple of hours later.

Barcelona sat one point behind the league leaders, and Madrid lay two points adrift of La Blaugrana. So, the narrative was clear: Win El Clasico, go top of La Liga and land a psychological blow on your opponents which is so damaging that the rest of their season will tail-spin.

There was so much at stake, that an attritional 0-0 and a meek sharing of the spoils was not entirely out of the question.

What we were treated to, however, was one of the best Clasico’s in living memory. Both teams came out of the blocks at a storming pace, with Barça controlling possession and creating pretty patterns around the Madrid box, while the hosts waited in position, ready to launch blistering counter-attacks.

The game followed that pattern from the off, and it was Madrid who struck first through a brilliant Karim Benzema back-heel flick, catching everyone by surprise. If we were worried that the game would lack quality, the Frenchman had just told us all to sit down and enjoy the show.

Barça may have considered themselves unfortunate to be behind, and even more so when Toni Kroos’ deflected free-kick doubled the lead. That scoreline left the visitors with nothing to lose at this point, and they went on the hunt for goals.

It was an incredible spectacle, with Barça carving out and missing chances, only for Madrid to break with devastating speed in an attempt to kill off the game. Vinicius Junior delivered another sensational display to add to his match-winning performance against Liverpool, while Benzema, Kroos and Luka Modric all turned back the clock.

But Ronald Koeman’s men were not ready to pass up the opportunity of going top of the table in a hurry. Lionel Messi had already hit the crossbar directly from a corner kick, and Thibaut Courtois had produced a series of world-class saves to keep his goal untouched.

But Oscar Mingueza’s strike early in the second half changed the complexity of the game completely, as Madrid sat back and soaked up the pouring rain, as well as a barrage of attacks.

Messi requested a change of jersey, Martin Braithwaite asked for a penalty and Ilaix Moriba smashed the crossbar with the last kick of the game, but somehow, Madrid survived. Both teams gave it their all, aware of the importance of the result, culminating in a combined 33 shots over the 90 minutes.

Not bad for a game which has lost its touch in recent years. Barcelona were crestfallen at the final whistle, while Real celebrated wildly in the torrential rain. The win put Zinedine Zidane’s men top of La Liga, ousting Atleti for the first time in an eternity.

While Diego Simeone’s men boast a game in hand, the psychological pain of having to chase the champions may be the final nail in their faltering title assault. And as for Barça, they know that they are still only a point off the top of the table, making very little difference to the scenes ahead of kick-off.

However, Koeman’s side left their heart and soul on the pitch on Saturday evening, and the Dutchman will have a hell of a job on his hands to pick them up off the floor after such a crushing defeat.

Three teams, now separated by one point with eight games to play, off the back of one of the best derbies in history. All we can say is, thank goodness that we were free to watch it.


El Clasico: Twitter reacts as Real Madrid & Barcelona put on an unforgettable show

Wasn’t it nice to have a Saturday evening dedicated to Spain and El Clasico?

The Premier League and the Bundesliga took the evening off, Italy teased us with Udinese against Torino, and France stuck Montpellier and Marseille on centre court.

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Nah, you’re alright thanks. There was only one feast for the eyes on Saturday, and that was Real Madrid hosting Barcelona in El Clasico. The biggy.

With the two sides separated by two points prior to kick-off, and both hoping to leapfrog Atletico Madrid to go top of La Liga, there was so much at stake for the Kings of Spain.

If we were worried that the game wouldn’t live up to expectations, those concerns were put to bed on 13 minutes. Karim Benzema kicked off the scoring for the hosts, producing a naughty little back-heel to flick the ball beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

We were all impressed…

15 minutes later, and Madrid were 2-0 up, thanks to a Toni Kroos free-kick. You guys love the swanky midfielder.

Arguably, the star of the show from the first half was Vinicius Junior, as Barcelona simply couldn’t live with his blistering pace and endless trickery. After his brilliant display against Liverpool in midweek, it finally seems that the real Vinicius has stood up.

He could probably still work on his finishing, though…

Safe to say, Barça supporters weren’t happy about that first half of football.

Saying all that, we did almost witness one of the most mental moments in El Clasico history, as Lionel Messi rattled the woodwork directly from a corner.

There was still life in this classic encounter. Barcelona rallied, Ronald Koeman’s substitutions paid off and the visitors found a way back into the game through Oscar Mingueza.

The game heated up so much in the pouring rain, that Messi decided to invest in a change of shirt for the final 10 minutes. He must have been pretty cold, in fairness. Bless his little cotton socks.

Desperate for a goal, Barça showed their desperation and turned to striker Martin Braithwaite to try and find a late equaliser. Incredibly, he actually made an impact and forced Ferland Mendy into a clumsy challenge.

The Barça players roared for a penalty, and the Madrid players roared for a booking for simulation. It was tense, but Los Merengues survived.

This game was missing only one key ingredient: Sergio Ramos.

Luckily, we saw him in the stands, going absolutely bananas and cheering his side on to victory.

It wasn’t finished there, though. Casemiro, realising he hadn’t picked up a yellow card for a change, overcompensated and grabbed two in the space of a minute, earning a costly dismissal as the two sides headed into injury time.

La Masia product Ilaix Moriba almost became the hero of Catalonia with the last kick of the game, smashing the crossbar with a thunderous volley.

But Madrid held on to climb a famous El Clasico victory, climb top of La Liga and put themselves in pole position to defend the Spanish crown. Thank you, for one of the best matches of the season!


EFL to move 3pm fixtures on April 17 to avoid clash with Prince Philip’s funeral

The English Football League has announced that all fixtures scheduled to go ahead at 3pm on Saturday, April 17 will be moved and played at another time, so as to avoid any clash with the funeral of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

The death of Prince Philip was announced on Friday morning, and the whole of the EFL held a two minute silence as a mark of respect for the husband of Queen Elizabeth.

The EFL have subsequently announced that out of further respect for the Royal Family, all football league matches arranged for Saturday, April 17 at 3pm have been postponed in order to avoid a clash with his funeral.

“As a mark of respect, EFL Matches scheduled for 3pm on Saturday 17 April will be moved to avoid a clash with the funeral of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” a statement read.

“The EFL will now work with its Clubs to determine at what time the matches will be played, giving consideration to the timing of the service.

“An announcement will follow in due course.”

A full fixture list was scheduled to take place at 3pm, with eight Championship matches programmed to kick off at that time. The weekend signals Matchday 42 in the Football League calendar, with teams closing in on promotion places and those at the bottom continuing to scrap against relegation.

Those battles will have to wait in order to prioritise the commemoration of HRH The Prince Philip, allowing time for the country to pay its respects. It is still unknown whether matches will be held in another time slot on the same day, or if the Football League will decide to move all games to an entirely different date.


Progression trumps regression for Chelsea in Crystal Palace cruise

From Selhurst Park – Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel will have been able to sleep easy in recent weeks, having finally dispelled the lingering spectre of Frank Lampard.

But while a no-nonsense, efficient 14-game unbeaten run is near-impossible to argue with, some sceptics will point to underwhelming draws against Southampton and Leeds as crucial points were dropped in the attritional battle for the top four.

That streak had become something of a false friend, with an unexpected European adventure meaning Tuchel is being forced to weigh up his priorities on a weekly basis.

Thomas Tuchel
Tuchel has had to weigh up his priorities of late | Pool/Getty Images

Then came last weekend, when the German’s outlook was forcibly shaken into focus by none other than Big Sam Allardyce.

After a few too many weeks and months of very plain ‘normal Barclays’, the Premier League threw up one of those gameweeks; Tottenham somehow failed to beat possibly the worst team the division has ever seen in Newcastle, Arsenal were thumped by a resurgent Liverpool and Southampton came from two goals down to beat Burnley 3-2.

But the result of the weekend came in Saturday’s early kick-off, as West Brazil sent ten-man Chelsea back to the pre-Roman Abramovich era with a resounding 5-2 win at Stamford Bridge.

Mateo Kovacic
The Blues were well beaten by West Brom | Clive Rose/Getty Images

Having been talked up as certainties for Champions League qualification following their resurgence under tactician Tuchel, the Blues found themselves fifth, with the once endless, unrelenting fixture list now dwindling.

It was imperative, then, that having almost certainly sealed their place in the semi-finals of the Champions League in midweek, Chelsea responded at Crystal Palace in Saturday’s late kick off – especially after Liverpool pushed them further down the table with victory earlier in the day.

And respond they did. The west Londoners produced their finest half of domestic football since Tuchel was appointed, camping in the Palace half and dismantling their sorry hosts piece by piece.

In what felt like a training drill, Kai Havertz opened the scoring with an unerring side-footed effort across the goalkeeper with just eight minutes on the clock. The young German’s first goal under Tuchel would act as the key to the floodgates.

The 21-year-old was imperious in the first period as a false nine, later dazzling with a chapêau over a defender before seeing his low drive tipped wide by Vicente Guaita.

Two minutes on from the opener, Christian Pulisic doubled the lead as he almost popped the ball with a left-foot strike into the roof of the net – weirdly a near carbon copy of the goal he scored on the same ground after the restart last season.

20 minutes and a Kurt Zouma header later, Chelsea had scored three times for the first time under Tuchel and the job was done.

Perhaps inevitably, the second half was more tetchy affair, with Christian Benteke’s fine header keeping the visitors on their toes. However, Pulisic bagged a brace with a tap-in to settle any nerves and see his side through to the final whistle.

While Chelsea’s run to the last four of Europe’s premier club competition is a welcome distraction from the occasional monotony of domestic football this campaign, seeing the club restored to the continent’s top table, the best route into next season’s edition is still the Premier League.

Just as last week’s embarrassment felt like it came a the worst possible moment, Chelsea’s discovery of a clinical goalscoring touch has arrived at an opportune time. Tuchel’s charges emphatically answered the question of whether the West Brom debacle was a blip that can be taken in isolation, or a sign that they might regress to the levels of the last days of the Lampard era.

Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz, Reece James
Pulisic and Havertz were key for Chelsea | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

With either or both of West Ham and Leicester set to drop points when they face each other on Sunday, the Blues are still well placed to get the job done.

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