Real Madrid started off in a 4-3-3 vs Las Palmas with a midfield comprised of Modric, Kroos, and Casemiro. Ronaldo was the man tasked with leading the line and he was flanked by Jese on the left and Isco on the right. Madrid’s now classic press (which executed continuously for the first 25 minutes of the match) forced Las Palmas into a mistake, allowing Casemiro to slot the ball to Isco who finished with ease. This blazing start put Las Palmas on the back foot who were then forced to push forward in search of an equalizer. Initially Madrid contested Las Palmas in their own half, with the Modric, Kroos, and Casemiro moving up in unison. Later on Los Blancos simply sat back and soaked up the pressure before looking to spring counters through Jese’s incredible speed. Jese ended up making one of Madrid’s attacks count as he cut inside to score in spectacular fashion.
Aside from the shape and the press, it was clear that Benitez instructed his fullbacks to push up and make overlapping runs liberally. Marcelo showed some great skills early in the first half, before setting up Ronaldo’s goal on a silver platter. Danilo, for his part, finally rampaged up the right flank in the manner we have been expecting him to. While he wasn’t as effective as Marcelo (Danilo had no key passes or dribbles) he provided good width and he displayed a sense of confidence that was lacking at the start of the season.
The second half was incredibly boring from the standpoint of the fans, but that was something Benitez intended. With matches against PSG and Sevilla on the horizon it made no sense for Real Madrid to bust their guts in a match that was already wrapped up. Benitez shifted his formation to a more defensively solid 4-4-2 (with Vazquez on for Modric, who was clutching his thigh) and instructed his players too slow the tempo considerably so the Merengues could control the match. Kroos was particularly crucial to this as he completed 85 passes with a 91.8% passing accuracy whilst distributing play nicely. The only other notable parts of this game were the introductions of Marcos Llorente (which changed Madrid’s formation back to a 4-4-3) and Borja Mayoral (and a 4-4-2). The ease in which Madrid switched between these two formations suggests that Benitez’s philosophies are starting to make its mark on the players and that they are understanding his system well.
(All stats from whoscored.com)