Real Madrid returned to Santiago Bernabeu for the first time since their win against Parist Saint-Germain. Los Blancos were facing Deportivo Alavés who were on a three game winning streak. Zidane’s men were undefeated in six games in the league including three back to back wins of their own.
Real Madrid continued to employ the successful flat 4-4-2 formation. Nacho and Varane manned central defense as Ramos sat out due to suspension as a result of yellow card accumulation. Carvajal and Theo Hernandez were the chosen fullbacks. A Casemiro-Kovacic pivot flanked by Bale and Vazquez comprised the midfield while Ronaldo and Benzema led the team as forwards.
#RMLiga | #RMMovistar— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) February 24, 2018
Our starting XI for this afternoon's match! pic.twitter.com/fLbmIlZmG5
Keylor Navas - 9/10
The Costa Rican was imperious in net and denied Alaves from registering on the scoresheet with several great saves and blocks. Furthermore, although it is now a staple of his game, Navas’ feel and composure during build-up with measured passing — which was evident today — is an important feature of the team.
Nacho - 7/10
Nacho put in an assured performance overall over the 90 minutes but it was undermined by certain shaky moments such as the dangerous giveaway in the first half as well as struggling to win some one-on-one challenges on other occasions. But as stated, he played well nonetheless and supported Varane and the team adequately.
Daniel Carvajal - 7/10
The right back was active throughout the 90 minutes and defended his flank very well. However, he was a little underwhelming going forward and didn’t have a significant impact in the attacking third. His deliveries were not the best but he did improve towards the end of the game becoming much more involved in offense.
Raphael Varane - 9/10
Varane has been a consistent rock in defense this season and added another solid display to his excellent collection of performances so far. The French defender cleaned up any loose balls and made critical clearances and interceptions time and again. Madridistas will hope the center back’s impressive form continues.
Theo Hernández - 7/10
Making his fifth start in the league, Hernandez had an eventful day against Alaves. Like Nacho, the left back had several shaky moments including a poor touch in the first half that got away from him at the edge of the box and led to a threatening Guidetti shot. While he struggled to be productive with the ball at the start, he improved as the game wore on providing great passes to players in good positions as well as showing off his speed with flashy runs in the second half. Although the performance was mixed, the good moments stood out more than the bad ones.
Casemiro - 8/10
Casemiro was at his defensive best during the match and supported the team during ball recovery and containment phases well. He had some issues in possession as he showed a lack of awareness at times and was easily stripped of the ball. However, those instances were infrequent and did not detract from an otherwise positive showing on the ball. He participated in deft one-touch sequences and did well to help ball progression and circulation wit his passing. He was substituted off for Llorente.
Mateo Kovačić - 7/10
The Croatian is continuing his adaptation into a deeper more central midfielder which is a slight departure from earlier in his career and his general profile. The same issues that occur with possession stability/control and midfield organization were visible. Furthermore, although Kovacic’s passing was balanced in the first half, it was mostly flat and didn’t help with vertical advancement. That being said, other aspects of his game that are great such as his speed/dribbling served the team well (e.g. when he led a great counterattack in the first half). His day came to an end in the 73rd minute when he came off for Ceballos.
Lucas Vázquez - 7/10
The winger had a balanced performance only let down by decision-making as he seemed to opt for passing when he had open shots a few times. Beyond those misjudgments however, Vazquez was great. He put in an excellent defensive shift constantly tracking back to provide coverage while showing fantastic understanding with Bale, Benzema, and Ronaldo. Capped his performance with the assist for the second goal and was just short of claiming a goal of his own.
Gareth Bale - 8/10
Bale, as others, had a mixed performance. He took a while to influence the game and didn’t really get going until the second half (although he did have an amazing bicycle kick attempt in the first). Scored early in the second half after great work from Benzema and hit the post later with a one-time effort from outside the box. He really came alive towards the end of the game and almost nabbed two assists but Vazquez/Benzema couldn’t connect with his passes - even without the assist, he did make the pass to Vazquez for Ronaldo’s second goal and won the penalty Benzema converted.
Cristiano Ronaldo - 9/10
Ronaldo’s rich goalscoring form has been an incredible boost for the team and it played a huge part in the game. His goals were extremely well taken (one with each foot). Additionally, he roamed fluidly and combined well with his teammates playing great and incisive passes throughout. He has now scored an incredible 300 (!) goals in La Liga and moved into fourth place for the Pichichi.
Cristiano Ronaldo is now the second player ever to score 300 goals in La Liga, doing it in 285 games.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 24, 2018
Lionel Messi (369) the first. pic.twitter.com/YoCUArymqe
Karim Benzema - 8/10
A very Benzema performance. One that will aggravate his critics and satiate his proponents. Narratives be damned howevever, Benzema was excellent in the match and had two great assists. Also got a goal as Ronaldo stepped aside for the penalty which the striker tucked into the bottom left corner. His finishing was a little blunt as he missed a great chance following the Kovacic-led counterattack in the first half and couldn’t connect with Bale’s cross in the second as well as other complicated chances he worked hard to create for himself.
Dani Ceballos - 7/10
Ceballos (who hadn’t seen significant time on the pitch since the first leg of the Copa del Rey tie against Leganes — over a month ago — came in for Kovacic in the 73rd minute and did very well to help close the game. Showed great movement, passing, and tempo setting.
Marcos Llorente - 5/10
LLorente suffering from entering the game late and in a makeshift midfield struggled a little. His touch wasn’t assured and he earned a yellow card after trying to recover the ball following a dispossession. Good minutes for the young player regardless.
Man of the Match
Ronaldo - Great performance and brace by the maestro as he continues to set incredible records.