Mateo Kovacic played 74 minutes in Chelsea’s 1 - 2 away win over Brighton on Sunday.
Kovacic, who is a key part of Sarri’s scheme, providing good press-resistance and defensive support for Marcos Alonso, had a subdued game against Brighton, and was removed with about 26 minutes to go for Ross Barkley — a routine substitution for Chelsea this season. The change also came at a time where Brighton pulled a goal back and had momentum, so it could’ve been Sarri’s response to punish Brighton for pushing forward with Barkley’s attacking abilities.
Brighton really tried to clog Chelsea’s left flank to prevent build-up from Alonso, Kovacic, and Willian. The Croatian midfielder struggled dealing with the amount of traffic in that zone, and his passing suffered as a result.
This wasn’t Kovacic’s best game. He didn’t join the attack much, and if it wasn’t for Hazard’s ingenuity in the final third, Chelsea may not have been able to break through Brighton’s defensive line. (Chelsea are heavily reliant on Hazard offensively in general.)
Elsewhere, Martin Odegaard continued his hot run of form with Vitesse, as he transitions himself into a key cog that his team depends on. Yesterday against VVV-Venlo, Odegaard scored the game’s opening goal with a beautiful cut-in from the right, and also had 82 touches to go along with his three key passes and three completed dribbles.
Le but d'Odegaard hier , avec le Vitesse Arnhem. pic.twitter.com/TbMEXYSbak— Team Real Madrid (@MadridTeam_) December 16, 2018
Theo Hernandez also played the full 90 against Getafe on Saturday, as Real Sociedad dropped points once again, and continue to underperform. Sociedad, who use both their wing-backs heavily in the post-Odriozola era, had a lot of play channeled through the left-flank, where Theo would look to combine with Zubeldia, Juanmi, and Willian Jose.
Like the match last week, where Sociedad lost to Valladolid at home, Theo didn’t get into attacking positions as much as he would’ve liked. Last week, Valladolid were tremendous in pinning La Real’s full-backs; and in this match, Getafe were strong defensively and could prevent dangerous overloads from Theo and Gorasabel. Theo did, however, have some good moments against Getafe, and he’s been playing well of late (along with Oyarzabal, Janujaz, and as of the last two games, even Sandro Ramirez) despite Sociedad’s form.
His defensive positioning has improved over the course of the season, and he continues to be a dangerous ball-carrier:
Theo finished this one with 87 touches, two key passes, and a game-high five successful tackles.