Valverde shows he's the Real deal as Clasico clobbering completes Barca miracle

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Since losing back-to-back games against Real Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa, the Blaugrana boss has seen his side go unbeaten in the rest of 2017

This was supposed to be Real Madrid's season to dominate. After Los Blancos beat Barcelona 5-1 over two legs of the Spanish Supercopa back in August, Gerard Pique admitted for the first time in his career at the Catalan club that his side's fierce rivals were superior. And so it seemed.

Pique's words aimed to motivate his team-mates after a difficult summer which saw Neymar leave for Paris Saint-Germain, top transfer targets Philippe Coutinho and Marco Verratti not brought in and, later, the revelation that Lionel Messi's contract had still not been signed.

Through all the storm, however, coach Ernesto Valverde remained calm. There were plenty of question marks over the former Athletic Club boss in the summer when he was recruited to replace Luis Enrique. Could he cut it at a huge club like Barca? The answer is an emphatic yes.

Despite all the problems in pre-season and subsequently losing summer signing Ousmane Dembele to injury, Valverde set about making Barca an effective team and the results have been spectacular, even if the football has sometimes been less so.

RM Barca score

This Barca side is perhaps more pragmatic than it is pretty, building on firm foundations at the back and solid positional play, with four men in midfield to squeeze spaces and persistent pressing.

Further forward, even without Dembele and Luis Suarez some way off his best, the presence of Lionel Messi means Barca are always dangerous and Paulinho provides an additional threat with his well-timed runs from midfield.

Some of the link-up play has been extremely impressive, however, and Saturday's 3-0 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu rounds off in superb style a very happy second half of 2017 for the Catalan club as they humiliated their biggest rivals once again.

Ernesto Valverde Barcelona Zinedine Zidane Real Madrid

Casemiro Real Madrid Lionel Messi Barcelona

Barca, 6-2, 4-3, 4-0 and 3-2 winners at the Bernabeu in recent seasons, made it three successive victories at Real Madrid's home in La Liga for the first time in their history and showed that they really have nothing to fear from Los Blancos.

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After a first half in which they created the better chances and could perhaps have had a penalty, Suarez opened the scoring as he finished off a devastating counter-attack and Messi made it 2-0 from the spot after Dani Carvajal handled and was sent off.

Later, Aleix Vidal added another and Barca are now nine points clear in the Primera Division at Christmas as well as provisionally 14 ahead of Real, still with a game in hand due to their participation at the Club World Cup last week.

Having won that competition, Zidane's side had wanted a guard of honour from Barca ahead of this Clasico. Instead, though, they were brought back to the real world by their bitter rivals and in a year that Los Blancos claimed a club record five trophies, it is Valverde's side ending 2017 on the biggest high of all.

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