Zinedine Zidane’s tactics behind Real Madrid’s El Clasico win over Barcelona have been leaked to the Spanish press – a ploy being seen as a new tactic to help other La Liga clubs tackle the Catalan giants and upset their march to the Spanish title.
Despite trailing 1-0 and having a man sent off, Los Blancos fought back to beat Barca and end the Catalans’ 39 match unbeaten run.
Gerard Pique opened the scoring at the Nou Camp ten minutes after the break but France striker Karim Benzema equalised just six minutes later.
Sergio Ramos picked up a second yellow card for one tackle too many on Barca’s Luis Suarez reducing the visitors to ten men and almost ensuring Barcelona would stretch their run to 40 games without defeat with just seven minutes left on the clock.
CRISTIANO RONALDO – SWEET FOR ZINEDINE ZIDANE
However, Real have Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portuguese superstar lived up to his billing by firing in the winner just two minutes after Ramos’s red to give Zidane victory in his first El Clasico as boss.
For Zidane and Real’s hundreds of millions of fans worldwide the win meant far more than just three points for team – it was victory in the world’s biggest domestic football match against possibly the world’s best ever team, achieved on Barca’s own pitch to end their record threatening 39 match unbeaten run, avenge the 4-0 drubbing at the Bernabeu…and all done despite having been reduced to ten men!
Real’s new coach tasted plenty of success in the fixture as part of the original Galacticos, but few would have tasted as sweet as this win over their most bitterest of rivals – a fact underlined by leaking the tactics behind the triumph to the Spanish press.
STOPPING LEO MESSI
Zinedine Zidane’s instructions – ironically written in Barca blue and red ink on official Real Madrid headed white paper – detailed how Los Blancos managed to nullify La Liga’s deadliest attack to stop Lionel Messi and his other amigos.
Real supporters are hoping other Spanish clubs can do the same by learning from and implementing Zidane’s master plan and thereby derail Barcelona’s season in the final games and give their club an unlikely tilt at the Spanish title. The fact that it would also stop the Catalan’s making it three La Liga championships in a row is something not lost on fans of either club.
NULLIFYING NEYMAR JR
The leaked sheet published by Spanish newspaper AS, shows that Zidane’s plan to stop Messi and nullify Neymar Jr was to have Real’s centre backs mark the strikers whenever they dropped deep.
The ploy was part of Zinedine Zidane’s wider plan to deal with Barca’s high pressing game and the tactics required cover from Casemiro, Real’s defensive midfielder to step in and occupy the space left by the central defenders being pulled out of position by Messi and Neymar.
Zinedine Zidane warned his defence of the threat posed by Luis Suarez’s diagonal runs while the whole team were give notice of how to combat Barca’s midfield powerhouse of Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta.
Casemiro’s role proved crucial and the player, who was dropped by former Real boss Rafa Benitez for the 4-0 humiliation earlier this season in Madrid, consistently frustrated and dogged the hosts by breaking up Barca’s attacks and earn the man-of-the-match award.
EMOTIONAL NIGHT FOR BARCELONA
Emotions were running high at the Nou Camp well before kick-off and the tributes paid by the Catalans to their former superstar player and manager Johan Cruyff were emblazoned across each player’s jersey with the simple statement “Gracies Johan”.
Fans raised coloured card to create a mosaic spelling out the same message prior to the referee’s whistle and it seemed all the pieces were in place for the home side to produce a fitting performance to honour the man who transformed their club.
After a tense first half, Barcelona opened the scoring through Pique’s powerful 56th minute header for only his second goal of the season. But Real refused to be rolled over and equalised when Benzema brilliantly fired in a scissor kick past the helpless Claudio Bravo in the Barca goal to make up for wasting a great chance before the break.
But Zinedine Zidane’s tactics and Real’s hard work and efforts looked doomed and undone when their captain Ramos received his marching orders with a second yellow card for yet another foul on Suarez to earn his fourth El Clasico dismissal during his 11 year career with Real.
Messi, Neymar, Suarez and indeed every Barca fan must have been licking their lips in anticipation of Real’s capitulation through depletion but it was the visitors who responded best.
Barca got a warning of Los Blancos intent and should have went 2-1 down when Gareth Bale headed home Ronaldo’s chip only for the referee to rule the goal out for a supposed push on Barca’s Jordi Alba.
RONALDO HITS GOAL 42
But Barcelona failed to heed the warning signs and paid the penalty within a minute as Bale turned provided and sent over a pinpoint cross to the far post for to Ronaldo to chest down and superbly nutmeg Bravo to secure three points and glory for Madrid.
It was doubly sweet for the Portuguese who to that point had, by his own mighty standards, a rather quiet and ineffectual game – as well as repeated criticism for failing to score away from the Bernabeu despite having banged in 42 goals already this season.
SEVEN LEFT IN LA LIGA
Despite their first defeat since October 3 when Sevilla beat Barca 2-1, the Catalans remain hot favourites for the title and sit six points clear of Atletico – and seven above Real Madrid – at the top of La Liga with just seven games left to play.
The three contenders for the crown all have Champions League games to contend with and the top two face each other tonight (Tuesday) in the quarter finals while Real take on Wolfsburg in Germany on Wednesday.
By Joe Cahal