The 2019/20 campaign marked one of the worst seasons in Barcelona’s recent history.
Not only did they fail to protect their narrow advantage over Real Madrid in the final stretch of the season, but they also suffered their most humiliating defeat in the Champions League — an 8-2 loss at the hands of eventual champions, Bayern Munich.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, benefitted greatly from Zinedine Zidane’s return and beat Barcelona to the punch in La Liga. In Europe, they were bested by a determined Manchester City in the Round-of-16 stage, which marked their second successive pre-quarter-final exit from the Champions League.
This season, the two giants have started below their sky-high standards and have already been bested in the Spanish top-flight. However, in the biggest game in Spanish football, records and recent form hardly ever take precedence. It’s all about determination and hunger — qualities these two teams have in abundance.
Ronald Koeman’s inconsistent Barcelona
After the disastrous last season under Quique Setien, Barcelona needed a more adventurous coach — someone who isn’t afraid of calling the shots. Former Dutch coach, Ronald Koeman, wasn’t exactly at the top of Barcelona’s wishlist, of course, but he looks capable of giving Real Madrid a run for their money.
Barcelona opened the season with consecutive wins over Villarreal and Celta Vigo. In these two matches, the Blaugrana netted a whopping seven goals, conceding none.
Their passing was on-point, they created a bucketload of chances, and they never looked like settling for a point. Over the next two games, however, the story took a turn for the worse.
First up, they welcomed Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla to town in a fixture many dubbed as the first test for Koeman’s Barcelona. The hosts were on the back foot for the majority of the tie and were lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw. They failed to impose the fear factor on the visitors and never actually hit their stride.
Their lowest point of the season, however, came in the next match, away at Getafe. Koeman, of course, fielded a plethora of capable individuals, but he couldn’t force them to perform and deliver as a cohesive unit.
Lionel Messi was nowhere to be seen on the pitch and cut a rather frustrating figure. The only goal of the tie came from the penalty spot off Jaime Mata’s boots just before the hour mark.
Trailing by a goal, Barcelona couldn’t mount a comeback and came back to Camp Nou empty-handed.
But the Blaugrana did start their Champions League campaign on a winning note, beating Hungarian outfit Ferencvárosi TC 5-1 at the Camp Nou on Tuesday night, with Lionel Messi, Ansu Fati, Philippe Coutinho, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele finding the back of the net.
Zinedine Zidane’s inefficient Real Madrid
Zinedine Zidane barely took any time getting his beloved Real Madrid back into shape, last season. He, of course, didn’t have Cristiano Ronaldo’s wizardry in front of the goal. So, he made sure Real Madrid conceded considerably fewer than they scored.
Karim Benzema pitched in with the most goals and was deemed as one of the most crucial cogs in Zidane’s title-winning Real Madrid. After the whole Messi debacle in the summer, many expected Real Madrid to be doubly determined to get their second successive La Liga. The real picture, however, has been a lot bleaker.
The defending champions kicked off their title defence with a goalless draw at Real Sociedad. The game saw the visitors created a few chances, but no one was there to put the ball in the back of the net. Sociedad, too, tried to create a few chances, but their advances were promptly cut down by Real Madrid’s efficient defence.
The next game saw Los Blancos return to winning ways — albeit with a little bit of luck. Playing away at Real Betis, Real Madrid struggled to get a foothold in the game and even found themselves trailing at one point. The red card took the wind out of Real Betis’s sails and Sergio Ramos’ penalty finally settled the game in favour of Madrid.
The next two games against Real Valladolid and Levante ended in 1-0 and 2-0, respectively. However, in both matches, Thibaut Courtois was adjudged to be the Man of the Match, thanks to his slew of impressive saves.
Finally, against Cadiz, the whole ruse was embarrassingly undone, as the Whites suffered their first defeat of the season.
Los Blancos then started their Champions League campaign in the worst possible manner, losing 3-2 against Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
Neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid look to be in shape. Both have a lot to figure out and are likely to take their sweet time getting there.
With that much quality on display, we should get a few moments of brilliance. However, we’re not sure whether the overall quality of the match would be anything to write home about.
Also Read: Champions League 2020-21: Results and Team of the Week | Matchday 01