- One thing I wanted to keep an eye on prior to the game was how Jese would handle himself as a starter after basically being demoted to an inferior Lucas Vasquez. Tonight, we saw the best and worst of Jese - nearly in two extremes. It's amazing how many times Modric and Carvajal were yelling at Jese to make runs he wasn't making on the right flank. Telling. Benitez has his reasons after all.
In the typical mid-half shake-up that Benitez has implemented all season, Jese switched to the left flank and almost immediately caused danger. On his second possession on the left, Jese beat one defender down the line and managed to get a cross in, and on an ensuing possession, he feinted right and cut in for a shot. Those were the moments that Jese was infamous for two seasons ago. Once he drifted back to the right, he went back to dribbling into defenders and flinging crosses that were blocked every time. What needs to change is his decisiveness when on the right. When he's on the left, he doesn't suffer from the same reluctance, he's more resolute.
- From the defense, Carvajal and Varane had a really staunch game. Dani had several good tackles and stayed in good position, and Varane was phonemenal - winning everything that came his way. The other two - Nacho and Marelo - were not as impressive. Nacho over-committed himself on a few tackles, and Marcelo is who he is. I was keeping an eye on him all game, and his problems go beyond his defensive gambles. Marcelo is never in sync with the defensive line when the team is pinned back. It causes problems, because when the defense is attempting an off-side trap, Marcelo tends to hang deeper. Perhaps it was the absence of Ramos or Varane's voice which gave Marcelo that complacency in this match.
- The team is not as dynamic without Bale and James, clearly. But Jese's departure was the portal for Kovacic, who really gave Real Madrid more of an offensive flow. It's troubling that Real Madrid can't break down Malaga when Benitez wants to rotate, but it seems like Kovacic should be a regular starter until James and Bale come back.
- Keylor Navas was, again, fantastic.