Luis Suàrez netted a hat-trick as Barcelona demolished a poor Real Madrid side to heap more misery on Julen Lopetegui.
Philippe Coutinho gave the hosts an early lead at the Nou Camp when he met Jordi Alba’s cross and Luis Suàrez doubled the lead from the penalty spot after being fouled by Raphael Varane on the half-hour mark.
Madrid stepped it up for the first ten minutes of the second half, with Marcelo pulling one back for Lopetegui’s side.
Benzema came close minutes later and Los Blancos struck the post in what would have levelled the game.
Despite this, Suàrez put the game to bed with two quick fire goals – the first being a delightful header from a wonderfully weighted Sergi Roberto cross.
‘Rey Arthur’ Arturo Vidal completed the rout from close range a few minutes from time.
Valverde shows tactical maturity
Barcelona fans are quick to criticise Ernesto Valverde if their side aren’t at their best, but when things go right tactically, Valverde deserves praise.
In this match, Valverde showed his tactical eye. Jordi Alba’s role was crucial, Barca reacted to Madrid’s early second half dominance with key substitutes, while Barca overloaded the middle allowing the likes of Roberto and co to thrive in the wing back roles.
In the first ten minutes of the second half, Real Madrid looked well on for at least a point. Marcelo pulled one back and Lopetegui’s side had a plethora of other chances, as well as dominance on the ball. That was thanks to the change at half time to a 3-4-3, which Real Madrid fans may become accustomed to should Antonio Conte take the job when Lopetegui is inevitably sacked.
This change of shape confused Barcelona, but after a crash course of a ten minute period, Valverde acted.
He sent on Nelson Semedo and pushed Sergi Roberto to a right wing role, which allowed Barca to thrive. His other change at this point was Ousmané Dembele, who changed the game back in Barca’s favour with his assists and overall play.
The whole tactics of the game are another issue, but in a very brief nutshell, Valverde should get much more praise than he has received.
Time to go
*Disclaimer* When writing this, Julen Lopetegui is still officially the Real Madrid manager. The ‘Comunicado Oficial’ has not occurred, but it will, surely.
After the game, Real Madrid sit in 9th in La Liga. Before the fairly easy analysis of why Lopetegui should be sacked, which he should, it is needed to have a little sympathy for the man who gave up his country for a club, and now is on the eve of losing both.
The 52-year-old had the reigns of the biggest club in the world for just 14 games – winning six and losing six.
Lopetegui will argue the sale of Ronaldo had robbed his team of 40 goals. It did.
Nothing about his appointment felt right, and although you have to have sympathy for Lopetegui, the downfall of his career was written the second himself and the Spanish federations agreed to announce his appointment at Madrid on the eve of a World Cup that Spain entered as one of the favourites.
Florentino Perez worried that a poor tournament for Spain would have diminished the size of Real Madrid’s coup, making the appointment out of paranoia and worry over the national team.
The blame can be shared, but for on the pitch matters exclusively, Lopetegui must be sacked.
‘Flopetegui’ will go down as one of the worst Real Madrid appointments in recent decades, but to sack him now means there is still plenty of time for the new boss to recover the form.
Despite that, the embarrassing loss at the Nou Camp means that the league title seems more of a dream than a potential reality.
El Clasico del futuro
All the headlines and buildup in Spain leading up to this one centred around not who was going to be on show in the classic fixture, but who was going to be absent.
Lionel Messi watched on from the stands, with an arousing smile on his face, while Madrid sulked in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who they are missing greatly since his departure to Turin.
Barcelona showed that life can go on without Messi. Ousmané Dembele may not have the potential of the Argentinian legend, but he showed off the bench that he can mature into a key figure for the Blaugrana.
The worldwide viewing figures may suffer in the absence of the big two, but the entertainment will not: El Clásico is still the biggest fixture in club football.
Barcelona: ter Stegen 6; Roberto 8, Pique 7, Lenglet 6, Alba 9; Busquets 7, Rakitic 7, Arthur 8, Rafinha 7; Suarez 10, Coutinho 7.
Real Madrid: Courtois 3; Nacho 6, Ramos 5, Varane 4, Marcelo 7; Casemiro 7, Kroos 5, Modric 5; Bale 4, Benzema 5, Isco 5.