Barcelona have a foot through the door in the finals of the Copa del Rey after they defeated arch-rivals Real Madrid 1-0 in the semi-final first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu last night.
The Blaugrana were coming into the game on the back of two consecutive losses, but put up a dogged and resolute defensive display to clinch a pivotal win against Carlo Ancelotti’s men, which takes them a step closer towards the cup final.
Such was the defensive mastery of Barça on Thursday night that Real Madrid were unable to register a single shot on target throughout the match – the first time that has happened at the Santiago Bernabeu in all competitions since 2010.
The resolute defensive display helped goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen register yet another clean sheet this season.
The German international has now recorded six clean sheets in El Clasico encounters, equalling the tally of Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas. Ter Stegen is just one shy of Victor Valdes, who holds the record for most shut-outs in El Clasicos (7).
Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez once again turned to Ronald Araujo to thwart the danger posed by Vinicius Jr by deploying him at right-back. And the move worked a treat yet again as the Brazilian was completely pocketed by the defender.
Since last season, Xavi has used Araujo at right-back in four El Clasico encounters to thwart Vinicius (including the pre-season friendly in the USA). During this run, Real Madrid have scored just one goal whereas Barcelona have managed to find the back of the net on nine occasions.
Last night’s win also meant that Xavi has now picked up victories in El Clasico encounters in three different competitions, having beaten them in La Liga, Supercopa de Espana and Copa del Rey.
It means that the 43-year-old has become only the third manager in the history of FC Barcelona to defeat Real Madrid in three different competitions within his first two seasons in charge, along with Luis Menoti and Johan Cruyff.
What also stands out is the fact that the Blaugrana had not won a single of their five previous Clasicos prior to Xavi taking over the reins. Under him, they have now picked up three wins in five meetings against Real Madrid.
Barcelona played a pretty uncharacteristic game last night as they saw Real Madrid have the lion’s share of possession. Indeed, the Catalans registered a possession tally of just 35.3% on Thursday – their lowest in any game across all competitions since the 2013/14 season.