1445 – Number of days it had been since we had last gotten three points out of Barcelona in La Liga. The last time was a 4-1 victory on 7 May 2008.

1581 – Number of days it had been since we had won at Camp Nou in La Liga. A 1-0 victory thanks to a Julio Baptista’s thunderbolt.

These numbers are difficult to fathom for Madridistas with fierce rivals Barcelona winning trophies each year and rolling past us in tournaments. All this changed last night, thanks to a 2-1 victory with goals from Sami Khedira and Cristiano Ronaldo. Alexis Sanchez had restored parity for Barcelona within minutes of coming on in the second half.

STARTING XI

Real Madrid – Iker Casillas; Alvaro Arbeloa, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Fabio Coentrao; Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema

Bench: Antonio Adan, Marcelo, Gonzalo Higuain, Esteban Granero, Raul Albiol, Jose Callejon, Kaka

Interestingly, Mourinho went for Coentrao on the left despite the criticism he received after his lacklustre performance against Bayern Munich in midweek. He was brutally exposed by Lahm late on in the game which resulted in the second goal for the Bavarians and he also had a difficult time coping with Robben in the first half. Therefore most predicted for Marcelo to return to the LB role but Mourinho had other plans. There are both positive and negative signs to the choice. Positive – Coentrao is a better defender than Marcelo is AND Negative – Coentrao doesn’t offer much in attack while Marcelo does in the form of link up play, goes past players and has the ability to score. Given what was at stake and how exposed we are usually in defence in a Clasico, Coentrao made for a better choice in comparison.

Another player who was criticised for his performance was Sami Khedira. Honestly, I didn’t understand why Khedira was criticised because as far as I am concerned, he had an average game. Not exceptional but not woeful either.

Other than that, there were no real surprises as far as the personnel were concerned. In terms of strategy, there was a double pivot employed than a trivote giving a hint that the team would try to go for attack as and when possible, rather than sit back and defend.

Barcelona: Victor Valdes; Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano, Carles Puyol, Adriano; Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Thiago Alcantara; Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Cristian Tello.

Bench: Pinto, Gerard Pique, Seydou Keita, Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez, Pedro, Martin Montoya

Pep Guardiola made two key changes from the side that faced Chelsea in midweek – Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez were out, Tello and Thiago were in. Powerful changes to put in youngsters in the fray than experienced players in Fabregas and Sanchez, both of whom who provide width and attack to the set up.

Mascherano continued in his makeshift CB role he’s been accustomed to and Adriano on the LB role. Pique on the bench having been on the bench against Chelsea too. Guardiola in the pre-match press conference said, “He’ll understand my choice”. Difficult to understand and explain what is going on behind the scenes at Camp Nou as far as Pique is concerned.

Key moments
6mins – Pepe with a loose pass to Ramos and Alves nicks it in to get past both of them. Thankfully Alves’ touch was a tad heavy giving Casillas time to get near the edge of his box to make a crucial save early on. If he had mistimed that save then it would have been a sending off and a penalty.

17 mins – Di Maria’s corner from the left was headed towards the goal by Pepe with suspision of handball. The ball fell to Valdes but he failed to hold on to it. Puyol on the line tried to be strong to give Valdes time to recuperate and grab the ball or for the foul to be called. Khedira, however, managed to react quickly and put the ball between Puyol’s legs into the goal. KHEDIRA GOAL!

27 mins – Xavi misses a golden opportunity to make it 1-1 to Barcelona. Messi splits through four defenders to send Xavi through with Casillas to beat but Xavi fails to put the ball in the back of the net.

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43 mins – After winning the ball by Khedira, he sets Ozil through who runs past Thiago down the left hand side only to be stopped by a Mascherano block. He had Cristiano and Benzema in the box to aim for and highlighted Barcelona’s weakness down the flanks and their vulnerability on counter attacks as well.

At half time – Barcelona 0-1 Real Madrid

55 mins – Barcelona came off quick and strong from the start of the second half. While Ronaldo was rightly adjudged offside from a Benzema through ball, Tello found himself onside and free to score from a Thiago throughball but he tried to go for a tad too much. He was left unmarked by Arbeloa and had Casillas to beat but his right footed shot from first touch went over the top.

70 mins – Barcelona got their goal in the 70th minute, within seconds of Alexis coming on for Xavi. Alexis the goal scorer in rather lucky circumstances but in a game like this, you take any goals, however they come. Messi blazed past defenders in numbers, found Iniesta in the centre who tried to control the ball but lost balance and it touched his heel in the process. The ball made its way to Tello on the edge of the box and his first time shot was blocked by Casillas with his feet, rebound to Adriano and his first time left footed shot wasn’t properly cleared by Arbeloa and luckily fell to Alexis on the far post. His first attempt was saved by Casillas but he made it count with the second time taking. Alexis goal!!!

73 mins – It took Real Madrid 3 minutes to get the goal back courtesy Cristiano. His goal scoring prowess in the right stage at the right time. Ozil picked up the ball near the half way line on the right hand side and provided an effortless sublime pass to an onrunning Cristiano who made no mistake in slotting in the back of the net with Mascherano on his side and Valdes charging near the edge of the box. Cristiano Goal!!!

90+4 mins – Cristiano had another chance in the final few seconds of the game to add to his tally but somehow he failed to score from 2 yards out. In his defence, he had a defender breathing down his neck forcing him to shoot wide. Higuain the provider of a gorgeous pass within seconds of coming on.

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And as the referee blew the final whistle, there was silence aroud the Camp Nou but for Real Madrid fans cheering and screaming in the away section. The lead at the top is stretched to seven points and title aspirations are surely given a huge boost.

Where the game was won?
The biggest mistake which Guardiola made was to take 69 minutes to make the first change despite noticing that the tactics weren’t working. Real were ready to defend and play on the counter while Barcelona had attacking players to create chances but no one to convert them. Keeping Alexis out of the starting XI or to take that long to put him on was the mistake.

This forced Messi and Iniesta to play quite deep to get the ball and then make their way into the final third with little support or options to do anything from then on. A few chances fell to Tello who should have done better with the opportunity but that is a hard lesson to take by putting a youngster in a massive game like this.

Real had a perfect blend of defence and play on the counter. We’ve employed strategies of just defending, playing on the counter and/or attacking in the past but rarely been able to get the mixture right, until last night. The defence stuck in to clear stray balls in the area and marked players well on most cases. Di Maria and Ozil helped out in the middle to win balls back and put in an excellent performance to go on the counter attack. Cristiano did the major job of instigating attacks and building counter attack movements. He played mostly down the left hand side but also dropped deep to regain possession as and when needed. He did really well to score his 4th goal in 5 last Clasico’s, clearing claims that he doesn’t perform in big games, such as the Clasico.

Special mention for Fabio Coentrao who did wonderfully to contain Dani Alves who clearly was always going to stay in attack rather than be part of the defence. He stuck to his task, got crucial tackles and blocks in to keep the Brazilian at bay.

In the end, a draw would have been a spectacular result before the game but 3 points is just a glorious way to end the week. Real are the first team this season to have gotten 3 points at Camp Nou. The only other team to have managed any points at Camp Nou are Sevilla who managed a draw.

With La Liga looking nice and tidy, focus returns to UEFA Champions League game on Wednesday with the tie standing 2-1 in favour of Bayern.