How Carlo Ancelotti’s selection of Rodrygo Goes won them El Clasico

Real Madrid were victorious on Wednesday night in spectacular fashion, thumping rivals Barcelona 4-0 on the night, with a hat-trick from Karim Benzema and one from Vinicius Junior. While Carlo Ancelotti was adamant he had not changed much, the selection of Rodrygo Goes was decisive for their victory.

The Brazilian started on the right of a front three, with Fede Valverde dropping into midfield instead. Usually Ancelotti lines up with Valverde as a nominal fourth midfielder/right-winger, and one of Eduardo Camavinga or Aurelien Tchouameni as the pivot. Yet Rodrygo’s inclusion was the difference that snapped their three-game losing streak to Barcelona.

In the previous El Clasico, all of Real Madrid’s attacks were funnelled through the left side to make use of Vinicius. Valverde tends to operate further inside than Rodrygo would, although the Brazilian has freedom to move off the wing inside. Dani Carvajal did get forward later on in their 2-1 defeat, but for the most part was not a factor in attack.

With Rodrygo moving into more intelligent positions further forward and starting from the wide right position, it stretched the Barcelona defence out, allowing more space for Benzema, Vinicius and Modric to work.

In the first goal and crucial goal for Real Madrid on Wednesday, Rodrygo shows a fleet of foot and thought to beat Marcos Alonso to the ball, as well as the touch to then release Vinicius afterwards. Moves that Valverde was unlikely to make. From there, the space opened up for Vinicius and Benzema to exploit.

Meanwhile in the second goal, the ball comes down the right side through Modric, who lays it into a free Benzema to finish on the edge of the box. Yet the reason he has so much space and time is because Rodrygo darts past Benzema and clears the space for him, taking Jules Kounde with him. Without that contribution, Benzema would not have had a clear shot.

Ancelotti might have called it a small adjustment, but it made a major difference to their attack against Barcelona. As Rodrygo hankers after more starts at the crucial stage of the season, his work in El Clasico will be his chief argument.

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