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Why James and Benzema are the key behind Real's latest success

Real Madrid took the lead just 90 seconds into the match and never looked back. Here's how the offense cruised so effortlessly.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

It's that time folks! There was never a doubt Madrid wouldn't take all three points on the road from Granada, and I'm here with Paint to break down what led to each of Real's goals.

Benz assist

Earlier in the season, Carlo Ancelotti said "When Cristiano Ronaldo plays, you start the match 1-0," and it was literally true on Saturday. Dani Carvajal made a great effort along the touchline to dish the ball to Karim Benzema who assisted Cristiano. This goal was a little too easy for Madrid. It wasn't even like Granada's defense made a total blunder: this was the result of Madrid's forwards linking up exactly as designed. The red line is to show Benzema had not only tons of space, but also a very nice shooting angle. Instead he puts it to Ronaldo who slots it home easily. This goal was practically clockwork.

James Rodríguez's goal to put Madrid up 2-0 was quite different than Cristiano's. It wasn't the fruition of the team's tactics working perfectly -- it was just two sensational players doing sensational things.

Benzema's flick bounced it right in front of James who blasted it into the far side of the net. Madrid players will continually to have a go from range like this because statistically, it's been shown they'll find the net every so often. It's a mitigated risk, and given James' knack for scoring screamers, I'm quite okay it.


This is a good summation of how Madrid have played sans-Bale. James much more forward than usual, extra help from fullbacks and Isco playing in the middle (but leaning toward where the ball is). This formation has (obviously) worked out well while the Welsh international has been out, but it'll be interesting if Carlo wants to keep aspects from this formation going forward. James has not-so-subtly reminded us he can score, and Isco has been world-class, so should Carlo mess with what's been working? That's a conversation for another time.

Ronaldo backheel

The third goal was part great individual skill and part great team play. Ronaldo was in the center of the pitch and received the ball from James before back-heeling it onto Benzema. Ronaldo didn't even look over his shoulder before flicking the ball on, so he must've known Benzema was about to change directions so he could feed him an easy finish.

If Ronaldo didn't assist Benzema, he'd have his back to the goal with no one cutting down the center of the field to tee it up to. This is what makes me think that it's something the team's practiced a bit, but hardly uses given the slim margin for error here. It's also worth noticing how Arbeloa was so far up the pitch. Ancelotti is definitely committed to dominating the wings, regardless of personnel.

Illarra press

Before Madrid's fourth, Granada very nearly slipped through to have a chance to pull one back for themselves. This was a muddled defensive formation in which only two defenders were deep, but Asier Illarramendi (who had come on just minutes before) was deep in the midfield. After a misplaced pass by Sergio Ramos, Granada had a chance to counter, but Illarra pressed forward quickly and won the ball. If he hadn't won the ball and Granada were released, there was tons of space behind Illarra, and no defender had a good angle at where the ball was going.

But since Illarra did do well to win the ball, he kicked off the quick counter, during which the ball pinballed from winger (James) to striker (Benz) to right-back (Arbeloa) to forward (Ronaldo) before finally being put away by James. This was another true "team goal" but it wasn't without risk as Illarra had to dig the ball out of the midfield.

Madrid scored each of the four goals in a unique way, as they put on a mini-exhibition of what the squad is capable of doing to defenses.

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