Barcelona have regained top spot in La Liga and piled more pressure on the shoulders of beleaguered Real Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui courtesy of a 5-1 win in the first Clasico of the season on Sunday.
Luis Suarez stole the show in the absence of the injured Lionel Messi with a hat-trick at the Camp Nou, while Philippe Coutinho and Arturo Vidal bookended the rout with goals of their own.
Marcelo pulled one back for the underperforming visitors to make it 2-1 early in the second half and at one stage it looked as though they might fight their way back into the match, but three goals in the final 15 minutes saw
Barca embarrass their bitter rivals to leapfrog Atletico Madrid in the table.
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The result will force serious questions to be asked of Lopetegui, whose job was already understood to be hanging by a thread before the match with his side now ninth in La Liga and already seven points adrift of Barca having lost five and won just one of their last seven games across all competitions.
The first chance of the contest did fall the way of Madrid when Karim Benzema lashed a half-volley over the crossbar after being found by Gareth Bale, but Barca broke the deadlock just three minutes later.
A long spell of passes ended with Jordi Alba being released down the left flank, and the full-back had the time and space to pick out a low pass back to Coutinho, who swept a simple left-footed finish into the bottom corner.
Some poor defending almost gifted the home side a second after 19 minutes when Sergio Ramos put Nacho in trouble and the ball ended up at the feet of Arthur, who drew a one-handed stop from Thibaut Courtois from just outside the area.
Barca doubled their advantage just as the visitors were enjoying their best spell of the half, though, with VAR being used for the first time in the Clasico to award the home side a penalty after Raphael Varane had clumsily brought down Suarez.
The Uruguayan stepped up himself and tucked a pinpoint spot kick into the bottom corner past Thibaut Courtois, who guessed the right way but could not get a hand to the penalty.
Lopetegui’s future looked fraught with danger at that stage, and eyebrows were raised when he chose to bring Lucas Vazquez on in the troublesome right-back spot during the interval, with Raphael Varane making way.
It was a change which initial looked to pay dividends as Madrid were almost unrecognisable in the opening stages of the second half, and their improvement led to them pulling a goal back as Barca’s wait for a La Liga clean sheet extended to eight matches.
Isco’s cross was deflected by Clement Lenglet into the path of Marcelo, who kept his composure inside the box to take touch and fire past Ter Stegen.