Real Madrid secured a crucial three points against a formidable Athletic Bilbao side. Karim Benzema struck twice for Los Blancos, continuing his prolific start as the men in white climbed to the top of the table. Madrid coach Rafa Benítez will be glad that his team responded in excellent fashion after conceding for the first time this season.
Mateo Kovačić impressed in his first start for Real Madrid, proving to be a versatile player that may transform into a future star. Isco, on the other hand, seems to be struggling under a new coach, despite having had a very promising preseason. In the end, credit must be given to Rafa Benítez as he led his men to a win in what was Real Madrid’s first truly competitive match of the season.
- Mateo Kovačić.
The Croatian may further provide Benítez with a selection headache, after having shown that he can slot in together with Kroos and Modrić in order to have a composed and balanced midfield in more competitive matches. Given the absences of Bale and James, Kovačić must make good use of any playing time he receives. With tonight’s showing, the 21-year-old will be further assured that he can contribute meaningfully to this team. Kovačić must continue in this fashion and grow even more confident – if not, he risks the potential future of Asier Illaramendi, a player with immense talent who did not have the poise to impact the mighty Madrid.
Those who have routinely watched the now 23-year-old in action for the past several years may get the feeling that the Spaniard simply has more to offer. Isolated on the right, Isco seems unable to influence the game in a manner which suits him most. While the Andalusian midfielder has had impressive moments for Los Blancos this season, he seems unable to provide his team with a constant guile style of play that characterizes him. Capable of contributing with several goals a season, the Spaniard should consider convincing Rafa Benítez to allow him to play in a more central position, where he knows he can be the connection between defense and offense – at least until Bale recovers from injury.
- Rafa Benítez.
Nearly sure that FC Barcelona was headed for a loss against the impressive Celta de Vigo, Rafa Benítez knew that anything short of a win would be unsatisfactory for the ever-demanding Madridistas. And a win he led his team to.
In what was their first real test of the season, Los Blancos excelled and provided some of their best football since Benítez’s arrival. Labelled as a coach who would destroy Madrid’s charisma and glamour, the pragmatic tactician has managed to add defensive grit to his side, while still allowing them to express their colossal talent in the opposition’s half. Benítez’s decision to essentially play a five-man midfield paid off, and allowed Real Madrid to return to the place where they belong on the table. The 55-year-old seems to be headed for glory should he continue leading his team in such manner.