El Clasico Tactical Analysis: Barcelona 1-3 Real Madrid
How did Madrid beat Barca so so comprehensively?
Real Madrid put one hand on the Supercopa de España title with a 3-1 victory over their greatest rivals, Barcelona, on a night of drama, controversy and sumptuous action that included goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Marco Asensio, an own-goal from Gerard Pique as well as a customary penalty from Lionel Messi.
With the second leg mere days away, the excitement is building ahead of a rematch between two great sides.
So, how did the opening leg play out and how did Madrid emerge as such convincing winners on the scoreboard?
Madrid, the kings of transition football
Barcelona might be going through a transition of their own in the absence of Neymar Jr, but there can be no doubt about the fact that Madrid are the dominant force at transitioning the ball from one end of the pitch to the other.
There is surely no better team in world football than Los Merengues at counter attacking football.
For their second and third goals of the evening - following Gerard Pique's unfortunate own-goal, that was clear to see.
The way the defence dealt with a Barca attack just three minutes after the Catalans had drawn level from the spot through Messi epitomised how capable they are at slickly moving possession, and to do so with such clinical potency just makes it all the better to watch.
When Ronaldo and Isco combined following the precise clearance into the Spaniard's feet, "Ronnie" still had so much to do 40 yards from goal and yet, he carried the ball with such incision that the strike was always going to match it - and boy did it.
For their third and final goal, it was counter-attacking spirit that proved crucial once again.
A misplaced Luis Suarez pass in the final third, intercepted by Lucas Vasquez and played into the feet of Asensio saw Barca's slack play punished superbly by a fine finish at the end of yet another swoon-inducing move to end the contest and remind us all just how good Madrid are at rapidly turning defence into deadly attack.
Barca out of sorts at the back
To say Barca were poor in defence would put it mildly.
For each goal they conceded, their defending was pretty much non-existent and if it had not been for some vigilant officiating to deny Ronaldo a second from the spot, they could have exited the Camp Nou with absolutely zero chances of a a fight-back in the second leg.
As it currently stands, Erensto Valverde's men still have a sliver of hope to concentrate on.
But they will need to improve their concentration, shape and effectiveness in their rearguard because it simply wasn't good enough.
From Pique's own goal to flooding too many men forward, they were not set-up to counter Madrid's obvious counter-attacking strength in any way whatsoever.
When Vasquez breaks away in the final minutes to set up Asensio, it is two-on-one in favour of the home side, but a combination of lazy back-tracking, a lack of confrontational defending to close down the runners and what looked like disinterested play all wound up seeing them concede their third strike as Madrid whowed more energy and hunger.
Sure, they were chasing the game, but they only had themselves to play and they will need more fight for the next match, and for the season ahead if they are to redisocver their mojo.
Casemiro the hard centre Madrid deserve
When you have players like Isco, Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Ascensio - silky footballers, elegant players who know how to produce flicks, tricks and touches that wow the crowd, there is always the need for someone physical to complement it.
Casemiro is certainly that type of player.
He has come a long way in recent seasons and there can be no doubt that he is now just as important to the philosophy of Zinedine Zidane's squad as the more shirt-selling names.
He sends out a message, alongside Sergio Ramos, that Los Blancos are not to be messed with.
His yellow-card tackle on Messi in the opening half was rough, but it was needed at the time - it laid down a marker that Barcelona were not going to be able to pass the ball around and monopolize possession as they normally like to do.
It was an infectious signal that permeated throughout the entire team. His play put Barca on tenterhooks and upset their flow, even spooked them enough to allow Madrid instigate their own game-plan after a fairly uneventful opening 15 minutes.
Casemiro is one of a kind and he is only going to get better - as will Madrid with displays like this.