Luis Suarez stepped up in the absence of Lionel Messi to score a hat-trick in a humiliating El Clasico for Real Madrid and their beleaguered head coach Julen Lopetegui.
Barcelona controlled the first period with ease, building a two-goal lead by the break through Philippe Coutinho and a Suarez penalty awarded by a Video Assistant Referee review.
Marcelo’s goal during a flurry of Madrid pressure at the start of the second period briefly raised hopes of a comeback before a Suarez double and Arturo Vidal header sealed the game as the visitors fell apart.
The result leaves Lopetegui in a seemingly untenable situation after Madrid’s heaviest Clasico defeat in three years and Barcelona building a seven-point lead over their old rivals in the league.
Madrid midfielder Casemiro told Spanish television after the match: “This 5-1 sums up our season so far. We have played well in some spells, But that is this season – we are a disaster, all playing very bad, all of us.”
Lopetegui’s side started the match in startlingly naive and passive fashion, with Jordi Alba raiding their right flank where utility defender Nacho was playing at full-back.
Alba provided the opening goal when he cut-back to Coutinho from the bar-line, and the former Liverpool man swept past Thibaut Courtois.
Saurez won the penalty he converted, darting across Rapheal Varane with a near-post run. Despite obvious contact from the defender, referee José María Sánchez Martínez waved away appeals for a penalty before changing his decision after consulting VAR.
Lopetegui switched to a back three at half-time with Casemiro moving back into defence, and Lucas Vazquez replacing Varane.
The alteration paid dividends when Marcelo got on the end of Isco’s cross from his new, advanced wing-back position and turned home at the second attempt.
Karim Benzema headed over unopposed from six yards, and Real rued not capitalising on that short period of dominance as Barcelona slowly re-established their superiority.
The game was effectively over when Suarez showed magnificent reflexes and striker’s instincts to turn home Sergi Roberto’s cross with a stunning header from fully 14 yards.
A sumptuous dinked finish over Courtois secured the hat-trick, before fine work from substitute Ousmane Dembele assisted Vidal’s headed goal to complete the rout.
FT: Barcelona 5 Real Madrid 1
Lopetegui is toast after that. It was laughably easy for Barcelona to play their way through at will – and all without Lionel Messi.
Barcelona have weaknesses of their own, so this is arguably a more embarrassing result for Real than when Pep Guardiola’s generational team beat them 5-0 in 2010-11.
Luis Suarez rolled back the seasons with his hat-trick and was at the heart of everything good Barca produced today.
GOOOOOAAAAAALLL! Suarez has his hat-trick
The scoreline is a tad harsh given Real’s improved start to the second half, but Barca are taking full advantage of their openness.
Suarez is played clean through in goal, but from a tight angle in the right channel. Waits for Courtois to go down and dinks it over him into the net. Game over. Bad error from Sergio Ramos in the build up.
61 minutes – Barcelona 2 Real Madrid 1
Ooooohhh…Barcelona with a picture-book move, one we have seen so often. Sergi Roberto is found with a chipped pass over the top from Rakitic and from the bar-line he volleys into the path of Suarez. It was slightly behind Suarez but he reaches for it with his heel and hits the post.
Back under way in the second half!
The absence of Lionel Messi is the only reason Barcelona are still in sight, but as things stand this is still within reach for Real if they can buck their ideas up and block the spaces they left.
Barca are making Real wait out on the pitch, taking their time coming out for the second half.
One change by Real – Vazquez replaces Varane in a radical tactical switch.
Barca kick off and we are under way again.
HT: Barcelona 2 Real Madrid 0
Nice feet from Isco wins Real a free-kick just to the right of the Barca penalty area.
Suarez heads clear and then Isco’s skewed volley straight up in the air sets Barca on the break. They had five players racing forward but Suarez cannot quite wrap his foot around the pass.
And that was the last action of the first half, back with more shortly.
40 minutes – Barcelona 2 Real Madrid 0
Real Madrid are getting passed around with ease, a really half-hearted attempt to press high leaves their midfield ahead of the ball. You sense they would be better holding their shape and hitting Barca on the break.
Barca on the break now however, and they should have capitalised – Rafinha’s pass was badly over hit.
Suarez made a near post dart across Varane and went to ground – whistles around the Camp Nou as the referee turns down his appeals. Varane did dive in slightly and catch Suarez on the achilles.
VAR is speaking to the officials, is that a clear and obvious error? Yes I think so, watching a replay at full speed. Whenever a striker is goal-side in these scenarios it tends to go in his favour.
The ref is watching a monitor at the side of the pitch…and points to the spot!
Ernesto Valverde: ‘We respect Real’
Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde is suitably wary of the danger posed by “wounded” Real Madrid in Sunday’s El Clasico.
Real went into the weekend’s fixtures four points adrift of LaLiga leaders Barcelona in seventh place, having picked up only one point from a possible 12 – and their boss Julen Lopetegui is under immense pressure to turn things around.
But Valverde, without the injured Lionel Messi for the Nou Camp showdown, said at his pre-match press conference: “The more wounded Real Madrid are, the more dangerous they are.
“They have good players, a lot of options at their disposal and a great defence. They have enough quality to fight back and they are a great all-round team.
“I am expecting Real Madrid to be at their best.”
No Messi, no Ronaldo
A first Clasico since 2007 that both Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo do not feature.
What happened in that last match, and what happened to those who featured?
Our reporter Molly McElwee looked into it – and here’s what she found.