El Clasico

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Vinicius, Mariano hand Real Madrid win in El Clasico, reclaim first place in Spain

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The season’s second version of El Clasico was setting itself up to have a dull, scoreless final result like its predecessor. But as the match turned the final corner, Real Madrid’s new-age attackers showcased what the new era is all about.

With two second-half goals from Vinicius Jr. and Mariano, Real Madrid edged rivals Barcelona 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday. Los Blancos leapfrog Quique Setien’s side to take control of La Liga, as the total point count reaches 56.

Held back by an unimaginative Lionel Messi and laudable defensive efforts from the hosts, it’s the first time in 45 years that Barcelona don’t score a league goal against Real Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane’s side was persistent on generating goalscoring opportunities, but were met by a solid Marc-Andre ter Stegen between the sticks.

In the 71st minute, however, Vinicius Jr. cracked the code, scoring with the help of a minor deflection. The Brazilian attacker is the first teenager to score in El Clasico since Messi.

50 seconds after coming off the bench, Mariano followed suit, recording his first goal of the season in grand style. It was the 26-year-old’s first appearance and first shot of the season.

In typical fashion under Setien, Barcelona managed possession and the rhythm of the match. But Messi and Antoine Griezmann failed to sync, lacking to generate many dangerous chances at goal.

The win proves to be vital for Madrid, who were coming off loses to Levante and Manchester City in Champions League play.

Spoils split in dud El Clasico

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The first El Clasico of the season was a relative dud, though Real Madrid made another statement of strong defense in a 0-0 draw with Barcelona at the Camp Nou.

Barca dropped points at home for the first time this season, but maintains its table edge on goal differential. All La Liga sides have now played 17 matches, with Barca and Real five points clear of third place Sevilla.

The visitors out shot Barcelona 17-9, and had 46 percent of the ball on the day.

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Zinedine Zidane’s suddenly stingy defense kept Barca out of the box for much of the game. Real has only allowed 12 goals in 17 La Liga matches this season after allowing 46 in 38 last campaign.

Barca produced the only big chances of the match aside from an offside Gareth Bale goal, but had little aside from Lionel Messi.

The Argentine great completed a remarkable 8 of 9 dribbles but missed a scoring chance. Luis Suarez was quite poor in the draw, Antoine Griezmann slightly better in his Clasico debut.

Real’s tactics became more and more reliant on the counter attack as the game wore on, and Gareth Bale ripped a shot off the outside netting in the 68th.

Bale had the ball in the back of the goal in the 72nd, but was whistled offside.

The jailing of nine Catalan separatists caused an initial postponement of the match, and perhaps the midweek legs cost both teams some class.

The match was originally scheduled for Oct. 26, and La Liga officials were so angry at the move of a marquee television match to midweek that they appealed to the courts.

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Barcelona 17 11 3 3 43 20 23 7-1-0 4-2-3 36
 Real Madrid 17 10 6 1 33 12 21 6-2-0 4-4-1 36
 Sevilla 17 9 4 4 21 17 4 4-2-2 5-2-2 31
 Getafe 17 8 6 3 26 16 10 5-3-1 3-3-2 30
 Atlético Madrid 17 7 8 2 18 10 8 5-3-1 2-5-1 29
 Real Sociedad 17 8 4 5 28 20 8 4-2-2 4-2-3 28
 Athletic Club 17 7 6 4 19 12 7 6-2-1 1-4-3 27
 València 17 7 6 4 27 24 3 4-5-0 3-1-4 27
 Granada 17 7 3 7 24 22 2 5-1-3 2-2-4 24
 Osasuna 17 5 8 4 22 20 2 3-4-1 2-4-3 23
 Levante 17 7 2 8 22 26 -4 4-2-2 3-0-6 23
 Betis 17 6 5 6 24 29 -5 5-2-2 1-3-4 23
 Villarreal 17 6 4 7 30 25 5 3-4-1 3-0-6 22
 Alavés 17 5 4 8 18 24 -6 4-3-2 1-1-6 19
 Valladolid 17 4 7 6 14 20 -6 2-4-1 2-3-5 19
 Eibar 17 4 4 9 15 28 -13 3-0-5 1-4-4 16
 Mallorca 17 4 3 10 18 30 -12 4-2-3 0-1-7 15
 Celta Vigo 17 3 5 9 14 25 -11 2-3-4 1-2-5 14
 Leganés 17 2 4 11 12 28 -16 2-1-6 0-3-5 10
 Espanyol 17 2 4 11 12 32 -20 0-2-7 2-2-4 10

El Clasico: Deadlocked Barca, Real aim to seize control of La Liga

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A wonderful Wednesday of football will see El Clasico served up to a public that’s been waiting a few extra weeks for the celebrated meeting of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Barcelona and Real Madrid are set for a 2 p.m. ET Wednesday El Clasico at the Camp Nou in Catalonia, where the jailing of nine Catalan separatists caused an initial postponement.

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Both teams on a league-high 35 points and Barca ahead on goal differential.

Real failed to seize a measure of control in the race for first place when it drew Valencia on Sunday, a day after Barca did the same against Real Sociedad.

Don’t blame Lionel Messi for Barca’s slip-up. He remains the highest-rated player in the world at age 32, with 12 goals and six assists in 901 league minutes.

Frenkie de Jong had admired Messi from afar, but having him as a teammate elevates that respect.

“Everyone knows how important Messi is to us,” De Jong said. “It’s no longer surprising if he scores three goals in a match. He’s so much better than the rest. Any team that faces Messi is always more nervous, I would be too.”

Even with Real Madrid’s defending as good as it’s been in ages, manager Zinedine Zidane admits that the Argentine remains the biggest X-factor in El Clasico.

“We know what we’re facing, we know they have Messi, but we also have our weapons,” Zidane said. “We want to play a good match against Barcelona, who also hope to do the same.”

Zidane’s counterpart Ernesto Valverde knows he has some players making their El Clasico debut. While Antoine Griezmann is used to mixing it up in derbies versus Real from his time at Atleti, De Jong will experience it for the first time.

“It’s a game that is has something different about it and it is played at a different pace,” Valverde said. “They will experience it first hand. You can tell it is a Clásico from the players’ tunnel before you come out.”

Barca is unbeaten in its last six Clasicos.

Storylines aplenty as El Clasico looms in Catalonia

El Clasico Messi
Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
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Wednesday is going to be a sneaky good day of world football.

There are three League Cup quarterfinals, a Club World Cup semi between Liverpool and Monterrey, and two rivals in Spain meeting in a rescheduled match.

Underplayed that last one, didn’t we?

[ FOLLOW: PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Barcelona and Real Madrid are set for a 2 p.m. ET Wednesday El Clasico at the Camp Nou in Catalonia, where the jailing of nine Catalan separatists caused an initial postponement.

The atmosphere outside the stadium will be monitored closely, as La Liga initially wanted the match switched to Madrid.

The match was originally scheduled for Oct. 26, and La Liga officials were so angry at the move of a marquee television match to midweek that they appealed to the courts.

The stakes are always high for El Clasico, and Barca’s controversial draw with Real Sociedad could see the two-time reigning champions enter the match behind Real Madrid.

The Blaugranas drew 2-2 after VAR did not decide to review a late shirt pull of Gerard Pique in the box, giving Barca 36 points. Real Madrid could climb to 38 points with a win away to Valencia at 3 p.m. ET Sunday.

An injured Eden Hazard made headlines Saturday when video emerged of his telling a Chelsea fan that he’ll return to Stamford Bridge once he’s done at Real.

Hazard looks unlikely to be ready for Wednesday, but Real’s strength this season has been its defense. Only Atletico Madrid has allowed fewer than Real’s 11 conceded goals (and the remarkable Atleti has played two more matches).

Barca’s defense has been far less impressive, allowing 20 goals. That’s not great, but 43 goals scored is a pretty great figure.

The leader? No surprise here, as Lionel Messi has a league-best 12 goals and his six assists are tied with Valencia’s Rodrigo for the top mark. That’s despite missing five matches and only going 45 minutes in two others.

That’s nuts, and the 32-year-old Ballon d’Or winner will enter the match as the all-time El Clasico goal scorer (26). If he nabs a hat trick, he’ll pass Ferenc Puskas and Paulino Alcantara for the most in El Clasico history.

La Liga roundup: Sociedad hold leaders Barcelona to draw (video)

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A stunning draw from top-of-the-table Barcelona highlight La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Real Sociedad 2-2 Barcelona

If Real Madrid manages to walk away from Mestalla with three points, they’ll dethrone nemesis Barcelona and become clear-cut leaders of La Liga.

Just days before El Clasico itself, a rare 2-2 draw from Barcelona against hosts Real Sociedad is the reason behind Los Blancos’ prime opportunity.

 

Former Borussia Dortmund starlet Alexander Isak tapped in his fourth goal of the season in the 62nd minute, leveling the score for Sociedad and sending the home fans into a frenzy.

In true Barcelona fashion, Real Sociedad, ironically hit the ground running first. 

After earning a foul inside the box from a corner kick set piece, Reala captain Mikel Oyarzabal converted from the spot, putting Sociedad, who have exceeded expectations this season under first-year manager Imanol Alguacil, up against the defending champions. 

It wouldn’t take long before the visitors responded, however.

A familiar face and experienced goalscorer at Anoeta, it was the ideal scenario for Antoine Griezmann to shake off some pressure that has been a key talking point surrounding the Frenchman lately. Darting inside the box with only Alex Remiro to beat, No. 17 – like in the old days – carefully chipped the ball over Remiro and into the back of the net the ball wandered. 

If the second half indicated anything early on it was that it was going to be difficult for Barcelona to drop points on Saturday. Unselfish as ever before, Lionel Messi laid off the ball to an unmarked Luis Suarez, who his team up 2-1 four minutes into the second half.

A lack of control of possession and, most notably, an unstable defensive line, would end up costing Barcelona two points.

Next for Barcelona is the game of the season: a league bout against Real Madrid on Wednesday, while Real Sociedad travel to Becerril in the second round of Copa del Rey. 

Elsewhere
Atletico Madrid 2-0 Osasuna
Granada 1-2 Levante
Atheltic Bilbao 0-0 Eibar