Iker Casillas-6.5 : The embattled Casillas did everything that was asked of him, coming up with a number of difficult saves to thwart a buzzing, creative Villarreal attack. Perhaps the only blemish on an otherwise solid performance was the dangerously juicy rebound he spilled moments after Real made it 2-0. This mistake could've let Villarreal right back into the match had Uche not inexplicably missed a gaping goalmouth opportunity. You can sense that his confidence is still a little shaken. Hopefully this performance will help solidify that.
Dani Carvajal-5.5 : Carvajal can sometimes be a frustrating player to watch. His offensive instincts and skills are undeniable and at their best he and Gareth Bale form a formidable tandem on the right, but many times his decision-making seems to draw him out of position, which (besides leaving Madrid vulnerable to counters) can also lead him to make rash, ill-conceived challenges. But one thing that can never be doubted is Carvajal's intensity and commitment. These qualities were particularly important today, as Villarreal started fast and carried much of the opening period of the match. Carvajal displaying a little offensive rust from his recent injury layoff and misplaying a handful of what are typically pinpoint passes, dug in defensively and helped stabilize a backline that combined for Real's first clean-sheet since August 25th.
Raphael Varane-7 : The continued growth of Raphael Varane is truly something to behold. The young Frenchman combined with Sergio Ramos to form a rock-solid centerback duo that neutralized Villarreal attacks time and again. Much is said about Varane's composure and it was once again on full display, as he exerted a calming influence on the back-four during the tempestuous early moments when Villarreal were storming forward. It is so good to see him healthy again.
Sergio Ramos-7 : The veteran defender battled his way through a solid performance that got better and better as the afternoon wore on. Forming a solid partnership with Raphael Varane, After a slow start, Ramos was able to expertly clog the passing lanes in front of Iker Casillas. As the backline withstood early Villarreal pressure, it solidified into a unit displaying a level of comfort and understanding seldom seen yet this season.
Marcelo-5 : The leftback displayed his usual mix of deadly offense and sometimes dreadful defense. His interplay down the left flank with Cristiano Ronaldo is often breathtaking and stands as one of the more underrated facets of what makes Real tick. His defending over the past year or so has seemingly regressed and Villarreal seemed to key their attacks to his side of the pitch, with Mario driving relentlessly towards the Brazilian. Still, Marcelo was able to contribute to what ultimately became a cleansheet before being withdrawn for Nacho in the 75th minute.
Toni Kroos-7.5 : The budding German superstar was a monolith of metronomic brilliance. Kroos played box-to-box, establishing tempo and forward attacking movements with a staggering array of passes. He also provided ace defensive cover in the second half, locking down space in front of the defensive line. It was a superlative performance.
Luka Modric-5.5 : Given license to go further forward thanks to the deeper-lying Kroos, Modric forayed near the Villarreal goal to distribute balls into Ronaldo and Bale. Villarreal were able to stymie these attacks effectively and counter through the middle of the pitch in space Modric had vacated. It was a key strategic battle in the opening phase of the game. Villarreal were gaining the upper-hand through midfield and pressing into Real's zone. All of a sudden, the Croatian fired a nonchalant shot from rapidly shrinking space that bamboozled Sergio Ansenjo, giving Real a shock lead that was frankly against the run of play at that stage of the contest. It was a strike that jolted Villarreal and Los Blancos were able to capitalize on it and seize control of the narrative.
James Rodriguez-5.5 : His fantastic, looping crossfield ball to Benzema was a work of art that may stand as the defining moment of the match. Other than that moment of unquestionable brilliance, James got somewhat lost in the shuffle. You get the sense that he is still finding his way into Carlo Ancelotti's system while simultaneously attempting to gain a level of comfort and cohesion with his teammates on the pitch. His wildcard movement and anarchic creativity will be a huge asset once Ancelotti figures out the best way to utilize it.
Gareth Bale-4.5 : Perhaps not at full-fitness, the Welsh attacker turned in an uninspiring performance that saw him unable to generate much offense nor match the intensity displayed by Villarreal. Bale became a little more influential early in the second half before Real really switched into cruise control, but he appeared stuck strangely in neutral throughout. His mere presence on the pitch forces defenders to take notice, so even in slow-motion he allocates space to Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema--but more must be expected of him going forward.
Karim Benzema-6.5 : Big Benz was extremely silent during the first half-hour or so before erupting down the right flank to run under a phenomenally placed James Rodriguez cross to set-up CR7 for the all-important second goal. Benzema showed an immaculate first-touch, controlling James' ball and shrugging off a defender with his power before sliding a perfect pass for Ronaldo to easily slip home. It was a glaring reminder of his class, a dangerous blend of strength, pace and vision. There were other moments (a sequence in the 68th minute comes to mind) where Benzema and Ronaldo interchanged beautifully and played some lovely football in Villarreal's end. The Frenchman also displayed his usual stellar workrate.
Cristiano Ronaldo-6.5 : Down just a little from the dizzying heights of the past week, CR7 was industrious and still managed to score a pretty goal on an excellent assist from Benzema. Ronaldo was a continuous threat going forward and exhibited a tireless work ethic.
Asier Illarramendi-6 : After an impressive performance against Elche, Ancelotti once again drew upon the Basque midfielder to stabilize the midfield and protect the 2-0 lead. Illarra fit in seamlessly and was able to help secure the points with a sharp, assured ease. You can sense his confidence growing (and Ancelotti's confidence in him) by the second,
Nacho-6 : Another player who impressed against Elche, Nacho picked up right where he left off, playing solid defense after replacing Marcelo in the second half.
Isco-5.5 : Coming on with the game solidly in hand and the team downshifting into cruise control, Isco was given some valuable minutes but not necessarily the right context or situation to showcase his creativity.