An unlucky encounter saw Barcelona succumb to a 2-1 defeat to arch-rivals Real Madrid. While the Catalan giants were in control for much of the game, Los Blancos took away all three points by capitalizing on their moments. However, much of the credit for the final result goes to both coaches as well.
Games can be won or lost on the basis of the substitutions and tactical changes made mid-game. For Barcelona, the changes that Xavi made could be considered detrimental rather than being a boost. However, the changes that Carlo Ancelotti made turned the game on its head.
Here are the four main changes for both Barcelona and Real Madrid that turned the tides in El Clasico:
1: Camavinga IN, Mendy OUT
- The true game-changing substitution came in the 52nd minute. Real Madrid’s Italian coach saw that Ferland Mendy was struggling to have an influence on the game. Dominated by Barça’s consistent press and possession, his game appeared over before it even truly began. Not taking long to ponder, Ancelotti introduced Eduardo Camavinga in his stead.
The French midfielder came in to occupy the left-back slot previously occupied by his National teammate. However, as he has done quite often this season, he would constantly emerge in the midfield.
His technical ability and composure ended up putting Madrid on the front foot for the first time in the game. Both the goals that came afterward for Los Blancos were possible because of the control Camavinga allowed them to have.
2: Modric IN, Kroos OUT
Ten minutes after the Camavinga substitution, Ancelotti made another game-defining change. In a game where one veteran was being bossed around by the likes of Gavi, it seemed that another could turn that around. In came Luka Modric for German veteran Toni Kroos.
That change allowed Modric’s more dynamic play style to counter Barça’s energetic approach. Whereas Kroos was being punished for taking his time on the ball, Modric punished Barcelona for wanting to be hasty. It was also his indirect assist to Jude Bellingham that gave Madrid all three points.
3: Ferran Torres OUT, Lewandowski IN
In a game where Barcelona kept Madrid’s defense at bay for much of the proceedings, a lot of the credit goes to Ferran Torres. While he may not have had the ideal goal-scoring performance many would have liked, he offered something much different but just as effective.
Constantly running, dropping into midfield, and making smart passes, Torres was very involved. An important foul on Vinicius Jr was also a key highlight. However, much of his good work was later erased upon the introduction of Robert Lewandowski.
The Polish striker, albeit a great striker of the ball, does not have the legs that Torres has. Keeping control away from Madrid was important but after this particular substitution, Madrid had all the time in the world to make their decisions more lethal.
4: Fermin Lopez OUT, Romeu IN
Arguably the most head-scratching change made by Xavi Hernandez. The 20-year-old Fermin Lopez was showcasing to the world why he has become such a big name within Barcelona. His passes, movement, and work rate were all top-tier in this game. In a way, he was one of Barça’s best players for much of El Clasico.
However, in the 72nd minute, he was replaced by the 32-year-old Oriol Romeu. Taking into consideration his rather poor recent form, Romeu’s involvement in El Clasico already should have been a taboo subject. However, to introduce him at a time when Barcelona needed fresh, young legs proved to be the nail in the coffin.
Bellingham’s wonder strike needed an appropriate response. A change in the offensive lineup to bring more dynamism into the team would have been the way to go. However, Xavi would end up introducing Oriol Romeu.
Misplaced passes, slow reaction speeds, and poor decision-making gave Real Madrid an even better chance at scoring a second. Ultimately, they managed that as well.