Nobody, not even Barcelona, saw this coming. In El Clasico on Sunday, Barca went to Real Madrid and obliterated and humiliated their rivals with a shocking 4-0 victory, simultaneously announcing their return to relevance. Dealing with ups and downs in the post-Lionel Messi era, the team appears to have hit its season peak in form under manager Xavi, stretching its unbeaten run to 12 games.
Barca scored twice in each half, and it was 4-0 before the hour mark, leaving the home side silenced and stunned. Without Karim Benzema due to injury, Real were also without answers, failing to produce on the few attacking opportunities they had while dealing with Barca's quick and efficient passing.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice, while Ronald Araujo and Ferran Torres both added a goal, as Barca rolled to another comfortable victory.
Here's the winning goal:
The win comes on the heels of Barca's win at Galatasaray on Thursday to advance to the Europa League quarterfinals, with the team once again showing its attacking efficiency on the road.
Here are three takeaways from the match:
Real looked predictable without Benzema
Real finished with a bunch of shots, 14 to be exact, but none of them were all that great. They produced an xG of just 0.85, one of their worst outputs of the season and lowest since that historically poor 1-0 loss at PSG in their Champions League round of 16 first leg last month. Real entered the game averaging an xG of over 2.0 in their previous five games, but here they rarely looked like a threat.
Without Benzema at the No. 9 position, Real relied on the speed of Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo. Each had one decent look in the game but were not sharp enough to test Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, as Barca's defense came ready to play.
The Barca attack is on absolute fire
Holy smokes. Barca's attack is just sensational at the moment, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang showing out. They've scored four goals in five different matches in the last month, and they've only gone without a goal once since early December.
They were relentless in this one, quick to play the ball forward and were as in sync as they have been in a while, which says a lot since they've been in sensational form.
For Aubameyang, that is nine goals in 11 games for his new club. A decent January signing...
It's not the Messi days, but Barca are back
It's going to be a while until it feels like the golden days of the Messi era. And I don't mean his last couple seasons where they team was quite poor, but the future hasn't been brighter for a while. Auba has been fantastic, Ferran is fitting in nicely, they have so much young talent, and even more will be coming.
Xavi knows what it is like to have Barca at the top, and they are trending in the right direction after just a handful of months with him leading the team. That's not to say that they are going to contend for the Champions League next season, but I'll tell you, I wouldn't be all that surprised if they continue to progress. The play has been there, the confidence is there, and the belief is there. I'm saying it right now that Barca are back... and even Gerard Pique agrees.
We are back.— Gerard Piqué (@3gerardpique) March 20, 2022