Barcelona delivered a masterclass at the Santiago Bernabeu to demolish Real Madrid 4-0 in Saturday’s Clasico and move six points clear atop La Liga.
Luis Enrique chose not to risk Lionel Messi, despite his return to fitness after two months out with knee ligament damage, most likely due to the competitive nature of the match. However, there was better news for Ivan Rakitic, who recovered in time to start in central midfield, while Javier Mascherano replaced Munir El Haddadi.
Madrid, meanwhile, welcomed back Keylor Navas, Raphael Varane, Marcelo, James Rodriguez and – most notably – Benzema, who was free to lead the line in attack in wake of a hamstring injury and being charged in the Mathieu Valbuena blackmail case.
From the get-go, Barca’s passing was far crisper and more accurate than Madrid’s, resulting in Los Blancos struggling to keep the ball in midfield areas and being overrun at times, in turn leading to questions about Casemiro’s absence.
Nonetheless, there was nothing Madrid could do about Barca’s first as tiki-taki at its finest saw Sergi Roberto play a sumptuous reverse ball for Suarez, who blasted a finish past Navas with the outside of his boot.
La Blaugrana were then dealt a blow when Mascherano was forced off with a suspected thigh injury, but they did not let the setback phase them as Andres Iniesta’s masterful build-up play was finished off by Neymar, who was slipped in behind and subsequently poked a shot through Navas’ legs.
Madrid, who were somewhat fortunate to have Cristiano Ronaldo avoid a red card for an apparent elbow into the back of Dani Alves’ head, fluffed a great chance of their own as Benzema – looking rather rusty – miskicked a bouncing ball at the back post, with Claudio Bravo seemingly beaten.
However, it could have got even worse for them had Marcelo not cleared Suarez’s close-range effort off the line after Danilo was left in sixes and sevens from Neymar’s lethal wing play.
The restart provided more joy for Barca and more heartbreak for Madrid as Iniesta – arguably the man of the match in the capital, as seen by the standing ovation he received from some Blancos fans when being replaced by Munir – drove home an effort after yet more sweeping Catalan football.
The rout was then sealed with 20 minutes to spare thanks to Suarez, who showed impeccable intelligence to spring Madrid’s offside trap and poise to calmly pick his spot when applying the finish beyond Navas.
Los Merengues did have the occasional chance to pull one back, but standing in their wake was Bravo, who denied Cristiano Ronaldo twice from point-blank range in the closing stages.
Nonetheless, they ended the match with 10 men, Isco shown a straight red card for a kick on Neymar, and their fans waving white flags to a chorus of chants demanding Rafa Benitez’s head.
Real Madrid 0-4 Barcelona
Suarez 11, 74, Neymar 39, Iniesta 53 (B) Isco sent off 85 (RM)
Real Madrid: Navas; Danilo, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo (Carvajal 59); Kroos, Modric; James (Isco 55), Bale, Ronaldo; Benzema
Barcelona: Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mascherano (Mathieu 27), Alba; Busquets, Rakitic (Messi 57), Sergi; Iniesta (Munir 77), Suarez, Neymar
Referee: Fernandez Borbalan