It's difficult to remember Real Madrid ever looking as clueless and toothless as it did in Sunday night's El Clásico at the Santiago Bernabéu. Maybe, with the league pretty much won, the remontada against PSG still fresh in the mind and Karim Benzema out, Real thought there was no such thing as a bad result.
Well, a 4-0 defeat to Barcelona in which Xavi's side could've scored seven or eight while dominating every facet of the game constituted a horrendous evening for Carlo Ancelotti's team.
The loss of Benzema, arguably the world's best player at the moment, can't be overstated, but there was no explaining the performances of key players like David Alaba, Éder Militão and Toni Kroos.
Benzema's absence, in theory, introduced Rodrygo wide right, Federico Valverde in the middle and Luka Modrić as a free-roaming False 9, but in practice it was a total disaster — turning Real into a shapeless unit devoid of taking control in the attacking half while looking susceptible to every Barcelona foray forward.
Everything about Real looked off, including its special edition all-black kits celebrating the club's 120th anniversary. It's hard to think of a less fitting tribute to the storied legacy of Los Blancos. Nice one, adidas.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should've given Barça the lead 12 minutes in when given space and time to finish from 10 yards out only to be denied by Thibaut Courtois, but the striker made no mistake on 29 minutes when Ousmane Dembélé beat Nacho to the byline and crossed for the Gabonese international to head home.
AUBAMEYANG WITH HIS FIRST EL CLASICO GOAL pic.twitter.com/QIPm8r81Ji
Real's only moments of joy where on the counter as the home team conceded 64% possession to Barça in the opening 45, and we finally got a little bit of spice in the 36th minute after Vini Jr., dribbling into the area at speed, went down easily and got an earful from Barcelona defenders.
Apart from that moment, this match was largely devoid of confrontation, and two minutes later Ronald Araújo made it 2-0 after meeting Dembélé's corner kick with a free header. It was another example of Real's defense allowing Barça's players all the space and time they wanted in incredibly dangerous areas.
ARAUJO HAS BARCA IN COMMAND pic.twitter.com/SVThNGfOrC
Real's players entered the Bernabéu as conquering heroes based on recent events, but they left at halftime to a crescendo of whistles and jeers.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 20, 2022
With no threat up top and no midfield control, Ancelotti brought on little used striker Mariano Díaz and Eduardo Camavinga. But somehow things got even worse less than a minute into the second half. If Aubameyang's first-half miss was bad, Ferran Torres' was worse. However, this was Real at its absolute worst. Torres quickly got another chance in the 47th minute and made amends after a brilliant assist from Aubameyang.
BARCA ARE RUNNING RIOT! FERRAN TORRES THIS TIME pic.twitter.com/3pR62eQ6J4
The fourth, arriving just four minutes later, was even more embarrassing with Real players convinced that Aubameyang's second effort was offside. A quick VAR review revealed that it wasn't. 4-0.
OH MY BARCA ARE LEADING 4-0!AUBAMEYANG DOUBLE pic.twitter.com/d1jp9xBim4
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 20, 2022
Aubameyang had another chance for a hat-trick but placed one wide. Torres had a one-on-one with Courtois but was denied. Memphis Depay curled an effort outside the post. We still had 20 minutes to go and Madridistas began heading for the exits.
It's not much more than a symbolic win for Barça given Real's lead at the top, but it ends Real's five-game winning streak across all competitions in El Clásico and lays down a marker ahead of Xavi's first full season in charge.