Now the dust has settled after Real Madrid’s 3-1 victory over rivals Barcelona, it’s time to assess which players shone brightest among the array of stars on display.
Madrid’s win at their fortress the Bernabeu Stadium regained them some vital ground in the title race, bringing them within one point of Barcelona and Sevilla at the top of La Liga. While they were missing world record signing Gareth Bale through injury, Madrid could still boast the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, James Rodriguez and Isco, to match the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar for the opposition.
However, some of the most interesting data produced by the game reflected the impressive performance of a relatively unsung hero at the fulcrum of the Madrid attack. Aside from his goal, which was expertly slotted home to kill the game at 3-1, Karim Benzema created 3 chances from 4 attempts .Some 49% of his attacking actions were good, compare to the El Classico average of 28.5%.
It seems Madrid’s eagerness to regain possession when they lost the ball gave them the upper hand over Barca and set up their counter attacks. Javier Mascherano won the ball back more than any other Barca player (5), while Sergio Ramos (7), Marcelo (6) and Luka Modric (5) all equaled or exceeded this tally.
Even though Barcelona had more possession, Real Madrid were much more efficient: Only 23.6% of Barcelona attempts to create chances actually succeeded, compared to 34.1% of Real Madrid attempts.
All eyes were on Suarez as the Uruguayan striker made his competitive debut for Barca after suspension following the biting incident at Brazil 2014. In a quiet game for his standards, Suarez’s numbers stacked up well against his fellow frontmen Messi and Neymar. While he performed less attacking actions (52) than Messi (91) or Neymar (80), his percentage of ‘good actions’ was an impressive 31.9%.
Another new Barca signing is Ivan Rakitic, the Croatian midfielder who arrived from Sevilla in the summer. The data suggests he didn’t have the desired impact after coming on as a 60th minute substitute for Xavi. In his 33 minutes on the pitch, 17.5% of Rakitic’s actions were classed as ‘bad actions’.
The extra space Real found themselves in when they pushed into the sparsely defended Barca half is evident in the number of ‘medium-high’ scoring chances they created – a total of 10 in comparison to Barca’s 4.
The key characteristics of both teams seemed to have remained the same. But with Bale to return, and Suarez yet to find his feet, now might be the time for Los Blancos to capture the summit of La Liga, and stay there.