On paper, Real Madrid are cruising to a very satisfactory end to the season.
Earlier in March, Los Blancos pulled off a miraculous second-half comeback against PSG to qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals, where they will face a stuttering Chelsea side. They also sit a comfortable nine points ahead of Sevilla at the top of the La Liga table.
Their pride took a serious dent last weekend, however. Barcelona, their bitter and out-of-sorts rivals, recorded a shocking 4-0 win at the Bernabeu, leaving manager Carlo Ancelotti and his side in the firing line from fans and pundits.
Former Real Madrid midfielder Guti was one of those to criticise Ancelotti, as well as forward Vinicius Jr, for their role in the calamitous defeat in Madrid.
Real Madrid 0-4 Barcelona: Guti rips into Real boss Ancelotti
Until the arrival of Xavi as manager, Barcelona's season had been an unmitigated disaster. Crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage, La Blaugrana also found themselves languishing far behind pace-setters Real Madrid in the La Liga table.
For Barcelona, that will have been doubly painful. Not only did they find themselves far off a league title, but it was their bitter rivals Real pulling away at the top.
There was some redemption for Barca on Sunday night, however. They are on a fantastic run of form, and have forced their way back into the top four. On Sunday, they took a sensational 4-0 win at the Bernabeu, thanks to goals from Ronald Araujo and January arrivals Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ferran Torres.
— LaLigaTV (@LaLigaTV) March 20, 2022
Though good news for Barcelona, Sunday's El Classico was an unmitigated disaster for Real Madrid. With their Champions League quarter-final tie against Chelsea approaching, it's a major dent in the side's momentum.
Carlo Ancelotti's in-game changes raised a few eyebrows, with Isco, Luka Jovic, and Eden Hazard left on the bench in the second-half despite a 2-0 half-time deficit. Gareth Bale was left out of the squad because of an injury but, nonetheless, Ancelotti's squad selection drew ire from pundits - none more so than club legend Guti.
Speaking to the infamous El Chiringuito, Guti questioned Ancelotti's in-game substitutions, and his lack of attacking impetus.
I'm Ancelotti and I look at the bench and I have Hazard, Jovic, Bale, Isco... And you're telling me that I can't sub any of them in? What's going on?
I watch the game against Barcelona and I see the Real Madrid bench and I find that in the second half the first change from Madrid is Mariano...how can this be?
Aren't Bale and Hazard there? Madrid's first offensive change isMariano, who hasn't played this year?
That wasn't all from Guti, who was also unimpressed with Real's front man Vinicius Jr.
— El Chiringuito TV (@elchiringuitotv) March 22, 2022
Vinicius has been one of the shining lights of Real Madrid's football this year, proving himself to be the club's next big talent.
Nonetheless, Guti wasn't enamoured with the Brazilian after the Classico, suggesting that he had his priorities mixed up as he said, "Vinicius cares more about the referee and rivals than about playing football."
Having experienced a positive season so far, Real Madrid will have to work hard to ensure that the defeat to Barca and the subsequent fallout will not derail this season's hard work.
The next month will bring both legs of their Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea, as well as a visit to the chasing Sevilla in La Liga.