Real Madrid close this one out relatively comfortably, winning 3-1 (Bale, Ronaldo x2; Portillo). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, post-game podcast.
With Toni Kroos and Luka Modric still out of the line-up, and Mateo Kovacic taking a break, Zidane rolled out a midfield of Casemiro, Llorente, and Isco — a curious trio, to be sure. This was Llorente’s second consecutive start, a good string for him to latch on to and get himself into a groove. As the scheme unfolded, it was clear that Zidane wanted Llorente to sit deep, almost as a right back (a less mobile version of Modric’s role), and for huge chunks of this match, he would be Dani Carvajal’s safety net, and almost play as a third central defender while Theo and Dani hedged forward.
Llorente didn’t venture into the final third, and this kind of role (although not as central as he’s accustomed to) is more akin to the role he played last season with Alaves -- highly accurate passing (80 passes, 96.3%) and channeling play through the backline. With Casemiro playing on the opposite side, and Isco roaming around while spending a lot time on the left flank, you could see why, while the team dominated possession, it had trouble binding the midfield and attack.
A lot of this stagnation with the ball was rectified naturally by the directness and good form of the front three. Benzema, like he did against Alaves, connected the dots well by dropping deep, and had a hand in both of the two opening goals. Bale, while not as influential as he was on the left flank against Alaves where he completed seven dribbles, led the team in key passes (three), and was a recipient of a Benzema assist on Real Madrid’s second. Cristiano Ronaldo continues to click into spring-unicorn-mode as he scored a brace. (Perhaps he should’ve even scored a hat-trick, as he had a goal disallowed for a phantom push. As I write this, I’ve only seen one replay, so I could be off the mark here.)
A solid victory. Those dropped points against Espanyol, Levante, and Celta during this run continue to look really bad, given they would’ve made Atletico sweat a little bit in second place.
Some bullet-points from Kiyan’s notepad
- Mateo Kovacic resting tonight (deserved rest!) should mean he starts in Paris.
- I love you Dani Ceballos take this virtual hug
- Getafe were missing a couple key players, but I’m surprised they threatened so little while defending so poorly at moments given how organized they are this season, and how well they’ve played defensively. Clearly they’re much stronger at home, but they left both Isco and Bale completely unmarked on our opening goal.
- Just a shoutout: Huge fan of La Liga journeyman Angel Rodriguez who’s having a great season, and gave Nacho a few issues in this one.
- Nacho has cooled a bit, which might be blasphemous given how loved he is. Not a knock, as he’s clearly a stellar servant of the club. He took a defensive gamble and it went horrible for him before he committed the penalty. For what it’s worth, his recovery was good, and from the replay I saw, it was a clean enough tackle to not be called a penalty — but he did make a mistake leading up to it, and had some trouble, like mentioned above, with Angel in this game.
- Loic Remy received a second yellow and was sent off early in the second half after he elbowed Nacho. Getafe pulled one back from a penalty, but generally this match was an open scrimmage from that point on. Which, to be sure, is not always a good sign, but Real Madrid closed it out just fine.
- Another impressive performance from Theo. Good steps being taken by both him and Marcos tonight.
- Tomorrow’s post-game podcast will be in two parts: 1) Gabe and Om will join me to talk about this match; and 2) Jonathan Johnson of ESPNFC will join me to preview the PSG match.