Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti will be looking for an immediate response from his players after the 4-3 Clasico defeat against Barcelona on Sunday. The loss has brought Barca right back into contention for the La Liga title with just one point separating Real, Atletico and Barcelona.
There was a stormy end to the game and a great deal of controversy surrounding the dismissal of Sergio Ramos as the visitors fought back from twice falling behind to claim all three points. Cristiano Ronaldo has been quite outspoken and claims that there a distinct bias against Madrid but there is no point on dwelling on the defeat.
Barcelona were arguably worthy winners in a game that is undoubtedly the match of the season to date. Seven goals, three penalties and a red card were just the highlights of an action-packed game that could easily have finished 6-6.
The visitors struck first through Andres Iniesta just six minutes into the game. Neymar had already gone close before Messi sent Iniesta through to fire home. Madrid responded quickly and Angel Di Maria was an ever-present threat down the left wing. Benzema missed a golden opportunity from six yards but then converted a Di Maria cross after twenty minutes to bring the home team back level.
A few minutes late it was 2-1 as the same combination teamed up again. Barcelona were grateful to Gerard Pique for a goal line which denied Benzema a hat-trick and then struck back just before the interval. Messi darted into the Madrid penalty area and smashed home to tie the game up at 2-2.
Real Madrid came out strongly at the start of the second half and Benzema forced Valdes into a fine save. The home side then moved back in front after a controversial penalty award against Valdes for a foul on Ronaldo. Madrid?s star player was quickly back on his feet to convert the spot kick.
Ten minutes later, there was further drama as Sergio Ramos brought down Neymar was shown a red card. Messi stepped up to level the scores once again and Carlo Ancelotti was forced to substitute Benzema with his side reduced to ten men. Madrid would clearly have settled for a point but a foul on Iniesta presented Messi with another penalty which he gleefully converted to complete his hat-trick.
On Wednesday night, Ancelotti?s team travel to fifth-placed Sevilla needing to maintain their slender advantage over Barca. Their main rivals still have to play one another which could be decisive in the closest title race for years.
Barcelona will now feel their title challenge has some momentum with Lionel Messi back to his imperial best with a hat-trick. They are at home to Celta Vigo on Wednesday night and are expected to keep the pressure on Real and Atletico with another three points.
Atletico Madrid are currently top of the table courtesy of their head-to-head record against Real. They are also likely to pick up another three points at home to eleventh-placed Granada who are still not safe from the threat of relegation.