Clasico kings Barcelona expose Ramos & Real as fading forces

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The Blaugrana moved 10 points clear at the top of La Liga with a 1-0 victory over their great rivals at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday night

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde insisted Saturday's Clasico wouldn't decide who wins La Liga.

He was right – but at least now we know who won't win the title: Real Madrid.

Barca's 1-0 victory has put 12 between the Liga leaders and their third-placed opponents.

Furthermore, the Catalans now lead their great rivals in Clasico wins (96-95) for the first time since 1932.

Real's only hope of reclaiming the advantage this season would be a two-legged meeting with Barca in the Champions League.

But would this Madrid team really want that?

Saturday's game was merely the latest damning indictment of the expanding gulf in class between the two sides.

Granted, it was no 5-1 or 3-0 rout but this latest Clasico defeat made it painfully clear that Real are not, as former boss Jose Mourinho put it, "a team with great belief or self-esteem".

Where Barca are consistent and controlled, Real are erratic and reckless, a fading force, just like their captain, Sergio Ramos.

The defender was involved in the game's principal talking points but not for any of the right reasons.

He lost Ivan Rakitic for the game's only goal. Then he lost his head, lashing out at Lionel Messi at every opportunity.

Ivan Rakitic Barcelona Real Madrid

He felled his Barca counterpart with a deliberately trailing leg before then leaving Messi with a bloody mouth with a flailing arm. 

By the end, Ramos had been reduced to throwing himself to the ground in the Barca area in the dying stages in the desperate hope of rescuing his side from defeat with a penalty. 

Captain, leader, legend – pathetic. Just like Madrid's performance, really. 

They could have closed to within four points of Barca with a win here. Instead, they are out of the running, after another toothless display. 

At least in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg at the Bernabeu on Wednesday, they could blame profligacy for their 3-0 defeat. 

Here, though, they had no such excuse. 

Gareth Bale took a free-kick inside the opening three minutes and that was it. Karim Benzema's most noteworthy contribution was a horrible miscue while stood in an offside position. Toni Kroos was terrible and Luka Modric again looked nothing like a Ballon d'Or winner. 

Inevitably, only the 18-year-old Vinicius Junior offered any hope for the future. But he went without a goal once more. 

Real had 17 shots in total yet never went close to scoring; indeed, only three hit the target. 

Barca, by contrast, always looked capable of scoring and, in truth, they should have scored more. In the end, though, Rakitic's wonderfully worked goal proved sufficient. 

The Croat insisted on the eve of the game that he no longer pays any attention to the constant speculation surrounding his future now that Frenkie de Jong's summer arrival has been confirmed. 

"Staying at Barcelona is perfect for me," he told DAZN. With his mix of technique and industry, he remains perfect for Barca, as his goal so beautifully illustrated. 

Rakitic drove forward, cleverly drew Ramos out of defence, and then passed to Sergi Roberto. 

The midfielder then surged past the Madrid skipper, collected his team-mate's precisely measured pass before chipping the ball coolly over Thibaut Courtois and into the net. 

Lionel Messi Sergio Ramos Barcelona Real Madrid

Ramos, clearly enraged at being so horribly exposed, decided to take his frustration out on Messi, throwing his hand into the forward's face just before the break.

Messi was irate and the pair squared up. Ramos, predictably, insisted the contact wasn't deliberate.

Just like his booking against Ajax in Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago.

And the two-footed lunge that put Levante’s Nacho Rodriguez out of action for six months with ligament damage in 2010.

And the barge that led to Alvaro Vadillo suffering a near-identical injury in 2011.

We could go on...

Ultimately, Ramos was only booked for a second-half body-check, predictably on Messi. As Gary Lineker quipped online, it was his first yellow of the game; it should have been his third!

By that stage, though, Messi had calmed down, with Ramos now a minor irritant, left powerless to prevent Real's title hopes of slipping away for another season.

Indeed, there was a disturbing air of inevitability about the defeat that will deeply concern Santiago Solari, who is the first Blancos boss since Beenhakker to win one of his first three Clasicos.

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Barca, too, have now become the first side to win three consecutive games away games against Real Madrid in all competitions. The end result: La Liga is now theirs to lose.

The Catalans are 10 points clear of Atletico and while Diego Simeone's side have a game in hand, they still have to travel to Camp Nou in April.

The Clasico Kings now look certain to retain their Liga crown too. Ramos' Real are mere pretenders to the throne.