A good, if unspectacular, win is just what the doctor ordered as Real Madrid got the necessary three points with a less-than-usual starting XI. So, what are some things we learned today?
- Cristiano is finally off the free kick slide. After failed 56 attempts for club and country, the Madrid star finally ended his drought with a dipping attempt in the 21st minute to give Madrid the lead for good. That's his 43rd free kick goal in all competitions and 25th for Madrid. There's no telling if more free kick goals will come any time soon, but it's nice to see that ugly streak put to bed.
- Chicharito wasn't half bad at all. He may not have the cohesion with Ronaldo that Benzema has and he kind of dropped off in the second half, but his movement and effort matched his reputation in that department and for someone who hasn't gotten many minutes and doesn't have much game-time chemistry with the players, he did himself fairly proud today with his perfect flick on goal. A nice poacher option off the bench if Carlo needs it.
- Jese still needs more time, but he's getting there. Usually it takes about a year for players to get fully back up to speed following an ACL injury and Jese seems to in that exact position. He had a couple of really nice moves early and his footwork is still sublime, as was evident on his goal, but the explosive burst and swagger to take on his marker just seems to be lacking right now on a consistent basis. He shouldn't be blamed for it, but perhaps expectations need to be tempered just a little bit. Still, it was good to see him get some starting minutes for once and his goal was the highlight of the day.
- A defensive midfielder is still useful on this team. Asier Illarramendi didn't put up eye-popping numbers, but him slotting back with the centerbacks allowed Marcelo and Alvaro Arbeloa to surge forward without fear of the defense getting caught out. While Toni Kroos has done his best to play a DM of sorts, his tendency to get caught too far upfield is something that Illarra doesn't share, a comforting thought at times. He seems, from an outsider's perspective, to be content with being a bench option and he knows his role on the pitch, perhaps it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to keep him past this summer.
- Fullbacks dominate this system. With his assist today, Arbeloa is somehow the second highest defensive assist man in the league only behind Marcelo and Daniel Carvajal sits in fourth place. While a team as talented as this will naturally rack up assists left and right, it's impressive that those three have a combined 14 in the league. The addition of an attack-minded FB like Danilo and possibly Gaya, etc. will only serve to bolster this attack when the midfield can't get rolling. Only question is will those defender have the adequate support when they go forward.
- Carlo picked his substitutions just right. Lucas Silva, Nacho and Pepe all got on the pitch prior to the 65th minute while Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo got a nice bit of game action prior to the big showdown versus Atletico. Lots is being made about Ancelotti's rotations and perhaps injuries and suspensions forced his hand today, but it's good to see the bench players get more than 5-10 minutes. There are some good rotation players on this team, a lot of times that flies under the radar.
What were some of your takeaways? Feel free to share them in the comments section below!
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