Madrid coach Zidane was well aware that he had to deliver in his biggest match yet as new manager for Ronaldo and co. Despite pundits predicting a somewhat straightforward win for Los Blancos, Ernesto Valverde’s men managed to score and create and entertaining affair for all fans present at the Bernabéu this Saturday afternoon.
Once again, Zidane’s coaching methods portray a football encompassing ball possession and fluidty, as opposed to former coach Rafa Benítez’s pragmatism. In the end, Los Blancos secured all three points and continue to pile pressure on league leaders FC Barcelona.
Here are my ratings for today’s match:
Keylor Navas: 7/10
The Costa Rican was as athletic as usual, managing to deny Aduriz and co. on several occasions. His quick reactions saved Madrid from conceding unnecessarily after careless and sloppy defending from Zidane’s men.
Navas seemed assured and cannot be criticized for either goal that Bilbao slotted past Madrid. If anything, Keylor must be applauded for bailing out Madrid’s yet again doubtful defensive display.
Daniel Carvajal: 7/10
Although most pundits predicted either Nacho, Arbeloa, or Danilo to start for the injured Marcelo, it was Dani Carvajal who solidly took care of matters on the left flank. Zidane will be glad that his defensive gamble paid off, and that the Spanish youngster looks capable of both handling defensive matters and providing key offensive support.
Sergio Ramos: 6/10
In a match that was characterized by defensive sloppiness, Sergio Ramos failed to contain Aduriz and provide efficient support in the air. Zidane will be eager to address such issues, as more lethal teams are surely expected to make Madrid pay should such performances continue.
Raphaël Varane: 3/10
Paired alongside Ramos, the young French prodigy failed to impress, and will surely give Zidane a selection headache as Pepe seems the more composed and in-form player at the moment. It was his horrid back-pass which led to Athletic’s first goal, and it obviously impacted the Frenchman, as he looked unsure throughout the game. He was ultimately sent off for a second bookable offense and will miss Madrid’s next match.
Despite looking dangerous on offense, Danilo yet again continues to struggle defensively. Was unable to handle Athletic’s offensive pressure, and will be keen on improving quickly, as Carvajal looks set to take his position once the injured Marcelo returns to action.
Toni Kroos: 8/10
The German international seems to inspire in a midfield trio alongside Lukita and Kovačić. Was composed and comfortable in his passing, and secured all three points for Zidane’s men with his finish in the 45th minute. Will surely be glad to have played a central role in the build-up to his goal and will be filled with confidence as he looks to be a central piece of Zidane’s plans this year.
Mateo Kovačić: 7/10
Kovačić is making it quite difficult for Zidane, as he continues to deliver whenever he is called upon. Alongside compatriot Modrić and Toni Kroos, the Croatian youngster is starting to justify his place in the starting lineup, providing Los Blancos with both creativity in offense and defensive stability. At the moment, Zidane may opt for the 21-year-old ahead of Isco in matches that require more control and stability.
Luka Modrić: 7/10
Modrić continues to impress as a crucial piece for Real Madrid this term. The Croatian excelled in his passing and is starting to cement his place as an irreplaceable figure in this team alongside Karim Benzema. Likewise, his performances are as much reassuring as they are inspiring, and many fans will be hoping to continue seeing the midfield trio of Kroos-Modrić-Kovačić.
Cristiano Ronaldo: 8/10
CR7 may no longer be the world’s best player, but his decline has been greatly overstated. The Portuguese juggernaut scored twice, and allowed his team to play calmly after a superb early goal which prevented Bilbao from pressing as much as they would have wanted to. The already-Madrid-legend finished the game three minutes from time with his 21st league goal, and will surely be glad to return to scoring ways after last week’s dismal display against Granada.
Karim Benzema: 7/10
Karim’s link-up play is second to none. His ability to connect with teammates and especially CR7 is commendable. Nevertheless, many will be hoping that the Frenchman adopts a more direct style of play, in a match in which he decided to pass rather than attempt a shot on goal which surely would have troubled the keeper. Still, Benzema remains an indisputable leader of this team and continues to shine with Zidane as head coach.
James Rodríguez: 7/10
James has been the subject of much criticism this year from press and fans alike, but will surely have silenced many with his beautiful goal from distance which sent Madrid ahead in an important moment of the game. Nevertheless, the Colombian forward has not hit his peak, and remains somewhat a shadow of the player which he was last year, after failing to convert a straightforward chance which would have sentenced the game early on.
Provided defensive stability for Zidane’s men, but was never truly tested. Still, the Madridista remains the safer bet ahead of the aging Arbeloa.
Was substituted with 18 minutes to go, but failed to influence the game in any way. Still, the young Spaniard seems to be relishing the chance to play under legend Zidane, and surely remains a guaranteed starter in the Frenchman’s plans for the season.
Lucas Vázquez: N/A
Set up Ronaldo’s second of the game and fourth overall with a lovely cross-field pass. Will be hoping to feature more in Zidane’s plans.