BARCELONA, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Talking points from Saturday’s action in La Liga after Real Madrid won 3-1 away to Barcelona in the ‘Clasico’ and Atletico Madrid beat Real Betis 2-0:
STREETWISE RAMOS PROVES THE DIFFERENCE
Real coach Zinedine Zidane was unable to explain how his side could beat Barca so comfortably after pitiful defeats to Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk but there was in fact a simple explanation: Sergio Ramos.
Madrid’s captain got injured against Cadiz and was not risked against Shakhtar, meaning he was at his all-powerful, bloody-minded best for the game that mattered the most and once again the towering centreback proved the difference.
Ramos restored power and concentration to Madrid’s defence but above all embodied the winning mentality that runs through the club, which was underlined when he made the most of a tug by Clement Lenglet to win the penalty in the second half from which he put Madrid back in front.
“The smartest kid in class, he brought home the bacon for Madrid by falling over and reacting far quicker than any other player would,” said newspaper AS, adding that Ramos was ‘Madrid’s life insurance’.
Ramos continued to thrive in the pressure-cooker situation of a penalty, scoring a 25th consecutive spot kick and racking up his 100th goal for the club.
KOEMAN LOSES TACTICAL BATTLE
A veteran of Clasico encounters as a player, Barca coach Ronald Koeman had a disappointing first experience of Spain’s biggest fixture from the dugout and got the big decisions wrong.
He made a bold call in benching Antoine Griezmann, but giving a start to 17-year-old Pedri in his place proved misguided as the youngster looked out of his depth and fazed by the occasion.
The Dutchman also took far too long to change things around even as his side continued to be overpowered in the second half, not making any changes until the 81st minute.
After the match, he chose to focus on Real Madrid’s penalty which he argued was soft, insisting that his side played well and would have got a different result were it not for the decision, even though they were out-played in the latter stages.
CAN GRIEZMANN FIND A WAY BACK AFTER LATEST SNUB?
Barca forward Griezmann began the biggest game of the season on the bench and was not called upon until there were nine minutes to go, a damning indictment of the fading status of a player who cost the club 120 million euros.
The Frenchman played no part in the 5-1 Champions League win over Ferencvaros and has now been left out of the starting 11 in Barca’s last three biggest matches, also being dropped in a title showdown against Atletico Madrid last season and the ill-fated quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich.
Griezmann could at least argue that Barca have failed to win all these matches without him, but it speaks volumes of his low status in the team that few people seemed to think he would have made any difference.
CAN ATLETICO GRIND THEIR WAY TO THE TITLE?
With Real and Barca looking far from their peak powers, Diego Simeone’s side are starting to look like a consistent, solid side after seeing off Real Betis.
Atletico are the only team still unbeaten in the league and have scored the most goals (along with Real Sociedad) as well as having the best defence, conceding only once in five matches and racking up four consecutive clean sheets.
With a proven goalscorer in Luis Suarez now ensuring that they take full advantage of the relatively few chances they create, Atletico have their best chance in recent memory of repeating their heroic title win of 2013/14. (Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Clare Fallon)
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