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Takeaways from Real Madrid's win against Celta de Vigo

Rafa's defensive decisions the focus.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Importance of pressing and collective defending

The first and most important thing to takeaway from this game are Benitez’s defensive decisions vs. Celta. He started the same back line that played vs PSG and thus, many fans were expecting to see a similarly strong performance from the Blancos’ defenders. With full respect to the attacking 3 from Bailaidos, if Real Madrid could stop Ibrahimovic, Cavani, and Di Maria, surely Nolito and co. wouldn’t be that bad? However the reality that unfolded completely flew in the face of our expectations as Celta cut apart Real Madrid with ease.

Why you ask? How could have Madrid’s defensive performance so drastically changed from one match to the next? Well for one, you have to give credit to the attacking nous of Celta. Nolito (more on him later), Aspas, and Orellana were audacious, brave, and on song as they took Madrid on and came out on top 70% of the time.

But more importantly, Benitez changed the defensive approach vs Celta. Against PSG, Madrid defended as a collective. There were two banks of four and every single player had a clearly thought out role of what to do when without the ball. It was the exact opposite against Celta as Benitez even declined to play a pressing game for the first time in his short coaching history with Madrid. Instead of defending "proactively" in the way that has served Madrid so well, he simply instructed his side to sit back and challenge Celta break them down. I don’t know how to emphasize how horrible a strategy this is for Real Madrid. Madrid are naturally a side that likes to do something, even without the ball. Patience isn’t a great virtue for the Whites, which is why pressing is so key to Madrid’s defensive plan. It is time for Rafa to learn that Real Madrid are not a side that can hold off teams with its back line alone. If he wants to defend, it must be like the PSG game, a collective effort. Rafa was very lucky not to lose points like he did vs Atletico using the same "backs to the wall" strategy.

Ronaldo’s work as a center forward has gone unnoticed

While the main focus surrounding Ronaldo’s game is usually his goals, the Portuguese legend has recently been contributing much more than that. Playing in an unfamiliar lone center forward role without complaint, his constant movement has opened up acres of space for his teammates. In this match, the biggest examples of this was evident in Ronaldo’s movement into channels and his willingness to run wide to receive the ball. Soon, wherever Ronaldo moved, the defense moved and CR7 took advantage of this drifting from a central position towards the left wing to dance past a marker and exchange passes with Marcelo. Before the Vigo back four knew what was happening Marcelo passed to Jese so he could slide in Danilo for the goal. The commentators I were listening to were absolutely bewildered by the defending, but if they had looked a little deeper they would have seen Ronaldo’s fingerprints all over the goal. He did the same thing in the second half by drawing a Celta center back 10 yards away from his position to provide a flick-on for Vazquez. The dynamic Spaniard was left one-on-one with a marker, whom he scorched, before he botched a chipped attempt at goal.

These two examples demonstrate the real threat that Ronaldo causes with just his movement and a couple touches. Add in a goal scored due to tremendous instincts, pace, and finishing, along with two successful dribbles and several pieces of tantalizing skill, you have a player that was probably Madrid’s second best player on the night.

Marcelo is back!!

When Marcelo scored vs Levante, there were hopes that we might be seeing the resurgence of the Brazilian after his poor start to the season. With 3 back-heels and a roulette in the first 10 minutes, it became clear that the man we all know and love was back to doing what he did best. He was the least troubled of all of Madrid’s defenders and made a solid contribution at the back with 2 interceptions, 3 clearances, and a tackle. At the other end, he was dynamite as he laid on 2 key passes and scored a very clever goal. What in the world will Madrid do if he gets injured?!

If Trump wants a wall all he needs is Keylor Navas

It would have been a crime (with an incarceration sentence of a lifetime) if I hadn’t included the Costa Rican superstar in this article. Man of the match for the millionth time, Navas saved Madrid from the real possibility of a loss. He produced 5 saves of the highest quality and when Nolito fired at goal late in the match, I was half expecting him to save it. Every match he seems to top his previous performance and you have to wonder if this brilliance is actually sustainable. Oh, and can anyone remind who this De Gea lad is? I remember him being important in the summer for some reason. Just can’t seem to remember why…

Haters will hate…

Vazquez has been doing a whole lot of good for Madrid this season, but the haters seem intent on pointing out everything he has done wrong. Aside from his truly exceptional ball control and dribbling he showed real strength of character vs Celta today. Early on he was stabbed in the ankle in a horrific challenge that the referee missed. It was clearly painful and it even drew blood, but he got up and continued to play at a high level. In the second half Orellana punched Vazquez in the back of the head and Vazquez was verbally assaulted by Aspas. The Madrid academy product kept his head and left it to Benitez to take him off in order to protect the lad.

Bits and Pieces

Madrid have been really weak this season against skilled players. Nolito twice managed to manipulate the ball past 3 defenders to create danger on goal. He also cut inside to score a beauty that even Navas couldn’t save. Previously against Malaga, a player cut in from the left and dribbled past three players before being stopped by Navas. The same thing happened against Betis. Varane and Danilo really need to sort out their one vs one game, because right now they are being bamboozled by every turn and shimmy.

Credit must be given to Celta’s best player Nolito. He managed an astounding 7 dribbles and 4 key passes. His two pieces of play to set-up Orellana were an absolute delight and his goal summed up his electric start to the season. A player to watch in Liga BBVA 2015/16.

Isco was unbelievable for a couple minutes after his introduction. He finally looked like he had the spark of the player we saw last year and he tore Celta to shreds with some dazzling runs. Will we finally see the real Isco?

Nacho on for Modric against a 10 men Celta Vigo typifies the kind of coach Benitez is. Such a decision is baffling and is one of the downsides to Benitez that Madridistas will just need to accept.

(All statistics taken from

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