As things stand in the current La Liga standings, even the most eternal optimist would start submitting to the title, which looks far out of reach by now. Real Madrid's horrid away form continued today, and Malaga's performance certainly merited the point they obtained.
Real have now dropped 4-of-6 points against Malaga this season.
Here are a few things we noted..
- This game came down to Real Marid's midfield trio which overall played quite poorly. The amount of misplaced passes and giveaways from the midfield really dictated the flow of this match, and the relatively low rate at which Real Madrid was successfully completing passes enabled Malaga to confidently push forward and press-high. There were times where Malaga's high-press - a system which always gives Real Madrid trouble away from home - looked vulnerable when they were exposed on the counter, but overall Real Madrid weren't proficient enough to take advantage of that.
Kroos, Modric, and Kovacic look tired as well - which is something to note. They weren't opening up or providing each other with many passing outlets which made the lives of all three of them more difficult, and they often failed to track their man into the area which led to chances for Malaga. All three of them weren't even in the picture when Albentosa scored and Real Madrid were bizarrely and overwhelmingly outnumbered in the area.
- Jese was hugely disappointing. Just once I can remember him successfully getting by his man with his strength on the ball, but other than that, he was unproductive. His replacement, Lucas Vasquez, was better than I thought he would be - involving himself as soon as he came in and linking up well with Carvajal, but twice he opted to dribble into traffic instead of playing the simple pass and building the attack. As I've said many times before, that's something he's struggled with all season. It was clear that the team missed Bale and Benzema today. The drop off in quality is real.
Bale in particular, would have added a nice dimension to the attack given how much space Malaga gave to Carvajal on the right. If there's one trait Real Madrid succeeded in today it was switching the ball to the right flank where Carvajal - and often the roaming Isco - had plenty of space in which Bale could have made good use of cutting in, shooting, and whipping crosses in.
- There were three players that stood out to me in a good way: Keylor Navas who was imperial between the sticks, Marcelo who was by far and away the most inventive player on the field, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo, despite his penalty miss and offside goal, played well, and it's encouraging to see him round into form during a crucial part of the season. If he had some more help today in attack, Real Madrid probably would have won this game.
- The defensive form of the team away from home needs to be addressed immediately. Real Madrid can't keep collapsing when teams pressure them like this. We'll touch on this more during tonight's podcast recording.