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Real Madrid 4-2 Villarreal: Khedira Showcases His Worth as Blancos Come from Behind


Villarreal twice took the lead against a defensively suspect Real Madrid at the Bernabéu, but los Merengues twice equalized before the break.  In the second half, Ronaldo completed his hat trick and Kaká added his first of the season to secure the win as Madrid dominated play.

It was a terrific result against a Villarreal side in 3rd that has improved dramatically this season under Juan Carlos Garrido.  We also showed impressive mental strength to fight back after going behind (no doubt an inspiring team talk from Mourinho at half-time helped) to preserve Mourinho's unbeaten record at home in the league and to keep our 100% win record at home this season.

One thing I noticed in the game was that Lass, who received a rare start, failed to control midfield against a slick passing team like Villarreal, and showed why Khedira is such a crucial figure for Mourinho's disciplined, intelligent style of play.  We have remarked before on this blog about how Khedira wins aerial balls and positions himself better than Lass, who is more effective coming on in the second half to close out a game.  However, this game illustrated to me the difference between Khedira, who is a proactive player and Lass, who is a reactive player.

Lass is highly industrious and has an incredible work rate, bustling around the backline to chase down and win the ball.  However, he is always one step behind, always responding, and never predicting.  His positioning is consequently poor as he is moving toward the ball and being dragged out of position, especially by a strong passing team that will simply leave him chasing shadows.

Khedira, on the other hand, does win back possession, but his more crucial role is in cutting off passing lanes with his astute positioning in order to starve the other team's attackers of service.  He is a step ahead of his opponents and prevents them from making strong passes, depriving them of the ability to use their possession and putting pressure on them to lose the ball.

This is far more effective, as demonstrated by the second half tonight where Khedira came on for Lass and stopped Villarreal from playing their intricate possession football, breaking their attacks effortlessly and allowing Madrid to dominate.

I still think Lass has an important role to play in the Madrid squad and I would be sorry to see him leave, but if Gago, who offers far more positionally and in terms of passing range, can show his worth after returning from injury, perhaps Mourinho will take his chances and sell the Frenchman on.