All aboard the Xavineta!
Xavi Hernandez head coach of Barcelona reacts during the La Liga Santander match between Real Madrid CF and FC Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on March 20, 2022 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The day after the damage of the night before, Madrid woke up to pouring rain and grey skies, representing the current mood at the Santiago Bernabéu as the champions-elect, Real Madrid, were dominated by their arch-rivals FC Barcelona

FC Barcelona- La Liga's in-form team

The Catalan giants came into the match on a run of good form. Unbeaten in La Liga since December, having scored four goals against SSC Napoli, Atlético de Madrid, Valencia CF and CA Osasuna, the mood in the away team camp was high. However, there was a feeling this past week could be season-defining and perhaps even era-defining. 

The Xavi era has been full of positive football from bright young players and that was very much underpinned this week. Firstly, La Blaugrana faced a tricky trip to Istanbul, where they met Turkish giants Galatasaray Spor Kulübü. Despite going a goal down, their youthful squad appeared unfazed. They were back on level terms when star youngster Pedri danced through the box, beating three opposition players before, cooly slotting the ball past fellow Spaniard Iñaki Peña. They took the lead when, January signing, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tapped home from close range, repaying the faith Xavi had shown in him.

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El Clásico

The hard-fought win in Turkey demonstrated how far the once fragile Barcelona have come. But, there were still some question marks ahead of the world's biggest fixture. Having won the last five Clásicos, Real Madrid were in a confident mood and looking to make it six in a row, extending their gap at the top of the league. Los Blancos had six days to prepare for the match after dispatching RCD Real Mallorca 3-0. Although, despite the confident mood, there was still cause for concern as Karim Benzema and Ferland Mendy were sidelined.

Los Blancos lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Fede Valverde playing as a false 9 in Benzema's absence and Nacho Fernández, captain for the clash, playing instead of the injured Mendy. FC Barcelona also favoured the same formation; however, their team appeared much slicker. Xavi made just two changes from the team that beat Galatasary just a few days earlier. In came the resurgent Ousmane Dembélé for Adama Traoré and Ronald Araújo started as a right-back. Both of the incoming players had fantastic performances.

The lack of Real Madrid's attacking potency and defensive stability were evident from the offset. Ousmane Dembélé easily skipped down the line and crossed for Aubameyang, who headed home and continued his fine goalscoring form.

Things went from bad to worse for Los Blancos when Araujo nodded home with under ten minutes remaining in the first half. The fragility shown when defending crosses will be a huge concern for Carlo Ancelotti. While the league seems to be wrapped up Los Blancos have a crucial clash against Chelsea FC, who have players with excellent aerial ability.

They say 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in football, however, after half-time, the only goal Los Blancos looked like scoring was in their own. Their haphazard defending provided countless opportunities for FC Barcelona to extend their lead, which they duly did. Their defence was left at sixes and sevens as Aubameyang added to his first-half goal with an excellent assist for Ferran Torres. The Gabon International expertly back-heeled the ball to his teammate after excellent build-up play from Los culés midfield. 

The rolls then reverse to complete the demolition. Ferran Torres slotted the ball through to Aubameyang, who was inexplicably allowed to run through on goal before expertly dinking the ball over the on-rushing Thibaut Courtois. Initially, the goal was flagged offside, but VAR reversed this decision.

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Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping the match was just a blip in what has been a fairly dominant season for the Spanish giants. The performance was very unlike the usually prolific Real Madrid. In fact, it was the first time they had failed to score at home since last year. Unlike when they drew 0-0 to Cádiz CF, Los Blancos had very few chances. The best went to Vinícius Júnior, who was one-on-one versus Marc-André ter Stegen before falling over the ball in his desperate attempt for the penalty when it was easier to try and score. This moment could have made it 1-1. Instead, Real Madrid found themselves two down at the break. 

At half-time, Ancelotti bought on Mariano Díaz and changed the formation, but his decision led to more chaos and confusion. After the heavy defeat, there will be many questions on the future of coach Carlo Ancelotti, particularly with a rebuild needed within the next years to revitalise Real Madrid's ageing squad. This is set to begin in the summer with the Spanish press fueling rumours of Kylian Mbappé's imminent arrival. However, the rebuild will also include offloading a number of fringe players. Gareth Bale, Isco and Luka Jović are all deemed not up to the grade, and Ancelotti is yet to get a tune out of Eden Hazard. A rebuild under Ancelotti looks almost certain. But with attractive options on the market, it will be an interesting few months, particularly if Los Blancos stumble over the finishing line. 

Alternatively, Xavi seems to be the man to bring Barcelona back to greatness. The players have considerably improved under his stewardship, Ousmane Dembélé looks like a one-hundred million pound player, and Aubameyang is certainly showing Mikel Arteta what he's missing. Furthermore, he has not only eradicated their fragilities he has also got young players playing attractive football that fits the Barcelona brand, all while cutting costs. Los culés will hope that their end of season form will be rewarded in the shape of the UEFA Europa League title, where they are among the favourites. However, since Xavi's arrival, they can be proud of their improvements. When Ronald Koeman departed, the side looked disjointed and unhappy- now it couldn't be any different.

While Xavi is not ruling out winning La Liga, it would take a catastrophic capitulation from Real Madrid to lose it at such a late stage. While the game doesn't have much significance to the title race, it could be a defining moment in two managerial reigns and be a hint to a title race between the two next season.