Madrid has only days to pick up pieces for another clasico
MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos feared the worst after Luis Suarez scored Barcelona’s third goal at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium — Panenka-style from the penalty spot — to end his team’s chances of making it to the Copa del Rey final.
“Let’s go!” the Madrid captain told his teammates. “Or they will score six on us.”
Barcelona had already clinched its sixth straight final appearance by then, as Real Madrid would need to score four goals in about 20 minutes to reverse the deficit, but Ramos wanted to avoid an even bigger humiliation at home.
They did, but Madrid fans had already started leaving. The third goal was humiliating enough.
Barcelona’s 3-0 victory and 4-1 aggregate triumph on Wednesday kept the team on track to win an unprecedented fifth straight Copa.
Real Madrid’s task is harder. It has only three days to piece itself back together for another clasico.
“We are upset. It was a hard blow,” Madrid coach Santiago Solari said. “In football you have to pick yourself up quickly because we have another difficult match ahead of us.”
The teams meet again on Saturday in a Spanish league match back at the Bernabeu, which the Spanish sports daily Marca is calling “Camp Bernabeu,” because of Barcelona’s recent success there.
Wednesday’s defeat marked Madrid’s second consecutive 3-0 loss against Barcelona at the Bernabeu. In their 17 matches there in the last decade, Barcelona has won 10, beginning with a 6-2 rout under coach Pep Guardiola in 2009. Other resounding defeats included 4-0 in the league in 2015, and 4-3 in the league in 2014.
Madrid hasn’t beaten Barcelona in their last five matchups in all venues. Madrid’s last win was in the Spanish Super Cup final in 2017.
Another setback at home on Saturday will practically end Madrid’s title hopes in the league, as it trails Barcelona by nine points. It would leave the Champions League as the only competition in which it can still succeed in its first season without Cristiano Ronaldo in nearly a decade.
VINICIUS JUNIOR’S MISSES
Things could have been different on Wednesday if young forward Vinicius Junior, seen as the team’s next star in Ronaldo’s absence, hadn’t missed many clear chances in a first half in which Madrid dominated and deserved at least a goal.
The 18-year-old Brazilian played well, creating many scoring opportunities, but wasn’t able to capitalize.
“He will get better with time,” Solari said of Vinicius Junior. “He will mature.”
Vinicius Junior’s teammates were quick to show their support for him.
“We have to score when he creates the chances, but we can’t blame a single player for the loss,” midfielder Casemiro said. “When we lose, we all lose. When we win, we all win.”
To make the loss even harder for Real Madrid to swallow, it came on a day in which Lionel Messi did little to help his team. Messi was coming off a brilliant performance against Sevilla in the Spanish league — a hat trick and an assist — but he was not really a factor at the Bernabeu.
Messi played only part of the 1-1 draw in the first leg at Camp Nou Stadium because of a right leg injury. He also wasn’t on the field when Barcelona routed Madrid 5-1 at Camp Nou in their first league match this season.
Suarez thrived in his absence, scoring twice and being involved in the play that led to Raphael Varane’s own-goal.
Ernesto Valverde celebrated his 100th match in charge of Barcelona on Wednesday, and has a chance to strike another double blow with a repeat result in his 101st on Saturday, by knocking Madrid out of contention in the league.
“Saturday’s match has the same importance as before and we will have to improve to win here again,” Valverde said.