Zidane selected a fairly changed starting eleven for the trip to the south of the Madrid to face Getafe. Marcelo and Benzema made their welcome return to the team while the manager elected to rest Modric, Casemiro, and Varane presumably looking ahead to the upcoming Champions League match against Tottenham. Notably, 18-year old Achraf was chosen to start for the second consecutive match after not playing a single minute in the first eleven games of the season.
Real Madrid begin with pace and intensity
Los Blancos lined up in a traditional flat 4-4-2 and not the adapted diamond 4-4-2 fans of the team are now accustomed to seeing. The primary reason for the change in the implementation of the formation was Isco’s absence as the configuration when he is on the field specifically suits the role he plays. Vazquez and Asensio were deployed as the wide midfielders with the former on the right and the latter on the left. The team as a whole was more positionally disciplined and only Asensio occasionally drifted away from his assigned post.
Real Madrid began with a visible intensity that saw them push assertively towards goal. This approach was particularly highlighted by the high level of verticality on display. The first sign was within two minutes when Marcelo played a ball from the back to Benzema who controlled and did excellent work to earn a corner. Below are other good examples of the deliberate direct play as evidenced by line breaking passing.
Benzema and Ronaldo were key for the success of this strategy as it was entirely dependent on their movement and positioning to provide clear outlets and passing channels to ball carriers. The French man especially reveled in this role as his dynamism, touch, and developed striker instincts made his profile ideal to handle the demands of the job.
Intensity drops but possession allows Real to stay in control
Despite banging on the door for most of the first 25 or so minutes, Real Madrid couldn’t quite put the finishing touch to several of the opportunities they created. Their intensity naturally slightly decreased but it wasn’t too much of an issue due to the excellent possession structure in place. Having Kroos and LLorente maintain a firm presence at the base of the midfield provided a supportive foundation for ball circulation and play progression.
Furthermore, the fullbacks were able to stretch the field to maximize space usage all the while providing apt support to Asensio and Vazquez. This was great to see because one of the biggest premiums Carvajal offers is his exceptional combination play, attacking verve, and overall wing management. While Achraf isn’t quite as effective overall, the Moroccan international was superb and had the same eagerness and ability in offensive situations which is key for Real Madrid’s system.
In fact, according to the above heat map, the teenager pushed up higher than Marcelo which is quite something.
Benzema goal suppresses Getafe ascendancy
As the game wore on, Ronaldo and Benzema became more entrenched as an almost separated unit that hassled defenders and enabled the team to quickly transition from defense to offense. This helped provide a counter to Getafe’s increasing threat in the first half as they fashioned a few openings that caused slight scares.
Nacho and Ramos along with a compact and organized midfield were up to the task and so it made sense to leverage the advanced and freed pair (a pair with great chemistry at that) upfront to capitalize on ball recoveries to attack Getafe when they were vulnerable.
This tactic was characterized by the first goal where Benzema picked up a loose ball and scored with precision following a terrific run. The whole sequence started with a Benzema interception showing the value of the pressure and transition enabling quality of the forwards’ high positioning.
Real’s effective chance creation overcomes defensive issues
Getafe caused Real Madrid some serious trouble in the second half. They created several dangerous chances with most coming through the left side of the defense including Jorge Molina’s equalizing goal around the hour mark in the match. One consistent theme in the defensive breakdowns was players overcommitting by “cheating” to try and win the ball while leaving uncovered and exposed space behind them. For the goal, Marcelo should have tracked Fajr (who played the cross in).
Another issue which directly resulted in Getafe’s second best chance of the whole match in the 79th minute along with other minor ones was sporadic compactness and marking miscues affording opposition players more space than they were due.
On the flip side, Real Madrid adjusted their offensive structure in the second half with Asensio moving into more central zones which allowed the team to create higher quality chances at a much better rate. This was needed as the team wasn’t having much success with corners and crossing. The substitutions (most important being Isco) also helped change the match in Real’s favor as his spark led to great deliveries and balls to forwards.
Where the Spaniard can sometimes be criticized for making suboptimal decisions in the final third and not having an eye for incisive passes, no such criticism could be made against Getafe. From the moment he stepped on the pitch to the last whistle, Isco immediately started providing progressive and considerate service to players in attacking positions. It was only fitting that his fantastic pass to Ronaldo was the assist to the winning goal.
Real Madrid started the match on the front foot and pushed for a goal with quick vertical progression but couldn’t score immediately. Despite facing defensive issues, eventually Benzema and Ronaldo’s goals were enough to give Los Blancos the win.
Overall, they created more and better (2.22 to 0.86 xg) chances. Zidane’s centurion ends on a happy note and the team’s supreme away form continues. The next challenge are Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League in what could be a fixture that potentially determines who finishes first in the group.