El Clasico: Rejuvenated Real Madrid takes on FC Barcelona to avenge the last meeting
28th October 2018 marked the first El Clasico of the last decade without the presence of either of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. The latter made a switch to Italian outfit, Juventus, while the Argentine was suffering from a fractured forearm when the two Spanish giants locked horns in yet another mouth-watering La Liga fixture amongst them in the Camp Nou.
With the determination to survive the loss of their club's highest-ever goalscorer and one of the best managers in their history, Los Blancos took on the Camp Nou pitch with high hopes. It was Philippe Coutinho, who broke the deadlock in the first ten minutes of the game, giving a perfect start to the hosts. Soon after, Luis Suarez doubled their advantage with a penalty struck hard at the bottom left corner.
With the dreadful performance in the first half to learn from, Marcelo struck a hard shot after controlling the free ball in the 18-yard box to make it 2-1, raising the sense of belief within the Madrid lineup and the fans besides. However, everything went in vain as the Blaugrana gained complete control over the match in the last quarter.
Referee Sanchez Martinez had a quick look to his digital watch and blew the final whistle. The away team stands in complete despair, with watered-eyes, looking down at the pitch. The 13-time European champions now have to go through the barrage of criticism, being unable to perform in Ronaldo's absence.
With yet another disappointing result in the running season, the inevitable had to happen as Real Madrid hierarchy decided to sack Julen Lopetegui and appoint former player, Santiago Solari, as the new manager of the Los Blancos.
Just like Zinedine Zidane, the Argentine tactician knows the club well, maintains a good reputation within the squad. What he needed to build was a team who would live and die for him, the way they did for the Frenchman. Solari took charge of the Bernabeu and gave some promising results within the first month of his appointment.
The same team which went on their worst ever goalless run in their history was now scoring goals under Solari. Brazilian prodigy, Vinicius Jr, has been an exceptional player in Solari's lineup and Karim Benzema, with 17 goals registered to his name, is enjoying his best first half of the season since joining in 2009. With 57 goals scored in the 23 matches under Solari, it is safe to say that Real Madrid are back to their usual standards.
Currently, the Los Blancos occupy the third spot of the LaLiga table, eight points adrift of the leaders, FC Barcelona. With just two points separating the city rivals, Real Madrid will take on Atletico Madrid at the weekend in a bid to secure the second spot of the league table and reduce the point difference with the La Blaugrana.
With the Copa Del Rey semi-final first leg to be played tonight, Real Madrid will visit the Camp Nou for the second time, this season. While Lionel Messi's absence might leave Barcelona with the same lineup as October, Real Madrid, on the other hand, might not be the same team on a psychological as well as tactical level.
With the European giants running in a fine form, and the attacking squad doing their duties well, it won't be a fixture like the last one as Real Madrid would thrive to get their hands on the CDR trophy, having last won the cup in 2013.