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Athletic Bilbao 1 - 2 Real Madrid: Initial reactions

Real Madrid's defense remains compact en route to three crucial points

Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

These are the games that win Championships. Here are four things worth noting from this match..

  1. Led by Varane, Real Madrid's defense looked formidable again. The defensive line remains an underrated trait of Real Madrid this season despite the common knowledge that Bilbao's lone goal was the only one Rafa's team has conceded. The shape that Benitez has Real in is quite beautiful, if we're being frank here. Real Madrid's attack is not one that leaves it's back-line exposed this season - instead it's pragmatic in its approach. It's a scheme that gives one confidence when leading the match as it provides the stability necessary to defend a lead.
  2. The Modric - Kovacic combo was dominant. De facto, Kovacic's performance tonight makes the team selection that much more difficult for Rafa, and Luka Modric was the best player on the pitch which complemented Mateo admirably. Modric stands at just under six feet - but plays like he's 10. He was everywhere tonight - winning headers, tackling balls he had no business reaching, and bossing the midfield.

    Luka Modric tonight: 63 / 67 completed passes

    Luka Modric tonight: 63 / 67 completed passes

  3. Marcelo remains an enigma. There isn't a left back in the World that can intricately get out of tight spaces the way the Brazilian can; but you'd be hard-pressed to find a left back who absolutely destroys defensive schemes the way Marcelo does. Tonight, he acted like a black hole at times - over-committing on challenges or getting beaten on the flank. Real Madrid won't concede an influx of chances this season, but when they do, it will be from Marcelo's side.
  4. Benzema was no 'cat' tonight. So clinical. Great awareness on both goals.

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