Real Madrid win comfortably against Eibar 3-0 (OG, Asensio, Marcelo). Here’s our quick reaction to this match. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.
Zinedine Zidane has a crazy amount of options to work with, and we’ve almost seen all of them this season. Two that were left: Ceballos as a hounding two-way presence in a midfield trio alongside Modric and Kroos; and Marcelo coming on as a substitute to play not just ahead of Theo as a left winger as an interchangeable piece like we saw against Levante — but as a player tucking centrally, and high-up the pitch trying to ride the shoulders of defenders while taking corners too. Y.O.L.O.
As the game unfolded, and half-time approached, not many fans were thrilled with Real Madrid’s performance. On Twitter, some alluded, again, to Isco and Asensio’s ‘selfishness’ looking off Ronaldo’s runs, while others complained about the lack of stream-rolling action against a team that’s struggling.
It wasn’t perfect, to be sure. Casemiro was hounded, and while he was relatively press-resistant (Eibar only pressed sporadically, but they did make it a point to unnerve Casemiro) by dribbling his way out of trouble; but his issue was key misplaced passes and an irrational leash with his challenges (more on this later). Isco had misplaced a couple passes which led to counters from Eibar, too. And if it weren’t for some bad decision-making from Charles, and an uncharacteristically poor game from Inui; Zidane’s men could’ve been punished. It should be noted that Varane dealt really well with Eibar’s attackers anytime they looked to get behind Real Madrid’s high defensive line in the first half.
But here’s the reality: Real Madrid ended up winning this game comfortably despite some kinks. If you’re Eibar, this scheme was very tough to play against. Ceballos and Modric played higher up the pitch than Casemiro, and acted as outlets when the ball was retained (and, for whatever reason, Mendilibar’s men didn’t close down the ball-carriers well), Isco roamed everywhere, and Theo’s pace caused all kinds of chaos and overloads on the left flank.
By the time Eibar started to push higher up the pitch and gather some possession, Real Madrid were already set-up defensively, with no real reason to gamble and provoke counters, and defended the rest of the match well before Marcelo scored Real Madrid’s third goal after a great assist from Benzema.
More from Kiyan’s notebook:
- I really enjoy Theo’s game. He has some kinks, like crossing: understanding the difference between a cut-back and a weighted cross, over-forcing a dribble — but none of these are things that can’t easily be remedied. Fully knowing how fast he is, I still get surprised when he catches up to passes it looks like he has no business getting to. He provided some great overlaps for Isco.
- I would’ve started Kike over Charles, if I’m Mendilibar. His physicality would’ve troubled our backline much more than Charles, who was just quiet and bad. There were moments in this game, particularly in the first half, that last year’s Eibar might’ve taken advantage of.
- There was a stretch in the second-half where the BeIn commentator kept calling Ceballos ‘Cebolla’ (onion).
- The ‘impossible-to-be-sent-off Casemiro’ continues his hot streak of avoiding a red card. He was on a yellow forever, and eluded the referee when he stepped on Inui’s foot in the box and getting his second yellow. This was a classic Case game: He’s so good at so many things (ball retention, snuffing out chances, allowing freedom to the central midfielders, and in other games, acting as a great interchangeable piece with Kroos and Modric), and yet so bad at so many things (giving away possession unforced, and having zero awareness of where he is in the referee’s notebook).
- I liked Ceballos today, he wasn’t other-worldly good, and I’m not sure he’s yet to learn how to co-exist with so many ball-dominant midfielders, but he hounded well and was never shy with the ball. He may have replaced Kroos in the line-up, but they’re completely different players. While Kroos stays deeper and to the left, Ceballos almost roamed freely across the horizontal plane like Isco did, and wasn’t the type of player (today) to allow Casemiro to venture forward the way Kroos does. I’m interested to see how this develops.