We saw the first El-clasico without either Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on Sunday afternoon and here are five things we learnt from the match at the Camp Nou…
1. Koeman’s dead man walking?
Following victories over Valencia and Dinamo Kiev in the previous week, some of the pressure on Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman had been relieved.
A loss in El Clasico at home, on the other hand, does little to help any manager’s cause, and if president Joan Laporta was looking for a pretext to fire someone, this could be it.
It wasn’t a disastrous loss or performance, but what was proved today is that Madrid is a significant step ahead of their bitter rivals – and that reality will not sit well with culers.
Another concern is whether there is a better candidate than Koeman who is willing to come in right now.
2. Alaba’s shutting critics up
When Madrid, who claimed to be cash-strapped, opted to pay 29-year-old Alaba exorbitant wages of £400,000 per week and sign him to a five-year contract this summer, it raised some concerns.
But with a fantastic all-action performance today, the Austrian went a long way to proving the critics wrong and inspiring his team.
Alaba is famed for his mobility, and while playing at center-back tonight, he didn’t need an excuse to get forward, routinely bursting on when Madrid counter-attacked.
And his first goal for the club, a ferocious effort that flew past Marc-Andre ter Stegen before he knew what hit him, was well deserved.
Madrid might yet do great things this season, thanks to Alaba’s expertise and the youthful vitality of players like Vinicius.
3. Ansu Fati not yet Messi’s heir
Ansu Fati was tipped to be the club’s next big star by a large majority of supporters.
In a big show of faith from Barca, the precocious 18-year-old was given Messi’s vacated No.10 shirt at the start of the season.
The attacker, however, failed to cope with the burden of expectation today, and was outshone by Madrid’s fellow highly-rated youngster Vinicius Jr before being replaced on 73 minutes.
Fati didn’t try too hard, and he did manage to put himself in good positions, but he lacked the killer instinct.
If he wants to be Messi’s heir, he still needs to work on a number of things.
4. Barcelona still searching for focal point
Despite the doom-mongering on social media, Barca do not appear to be a million miles away from being a decent team again.
They still lack a huge presence up top, as well as a guy who can hold the ball and get runners in behind them.
They now appear toothless in the future, waiting for Memphis Depay to work his magic or for inspiration to arrive from somewhere else.
Unfortunately, without Messi’s game-winning touches, Barcelona faces a major problem, one that must be addressed in January.
5. Even without Messi and Ronaldo, El-clasico is still a big one
There had been speculation leading up to this El Clasico that the event had lost some of its luster and attractiveness as a result of the departures of such big stars in recent years.
But there can be no doubt that, regardless of who the 22 players on the pitch are, this is and will likely always be the most prestigious and glamorous club match in international football.
From early in the morning, the mood in Barcelona was electrifying, with chants ringing out from local bars and fireworks being fired up outside the stadium.
And the thunderous boos the Madrid players experienced as they rushed out to warm up from the few thousand present in the stadium set the tone for what was to come.