We’re almost through it, fam. Tonight’s penultimate La Liga match ended in an emphatic and uncontested victory over Celta Vigo, and only one warm-up-hurdle remains before Real Madrid take on Klopp in Kiev.
In a sharp contrast to Real Madrid’s game in Sevilla earlier this week, Zidane fielded a much stronger XI — arguably the strongest among the healthy players with the exception of Sergio Ramos who earned some much needed rest. Cristiano Ronaldo and Dani Carvajal sat out as they continued to recover from their injuries.
From start to finish, this was a very routine win. Celta Vigo were defanged without Iago Aspas, Pione Sisto, Emre Mor, and others. They had no answer for Real Madrid’s off-ball runs and precise passing; nor could they string anything together offensively. They were subdued, created little (if any) danger, and their high-line was punished.
Bullet points from Kiyan’s notebook
- Some quick Celta notes: Obviously they’re not going to be a formidable opponent here without several key players, and with there being zero at stake. But, they were, um, still really bad. Their high-line was suicidal against those Achraf and Bale runs, particularly in the first half, and Jonny just has no coverage from Boye, Jozabed, or otherwise.
- Gareth Bale rounding into form nicely here at the apex of the season. Some were worried when they saw the line-up on paper, as it seemed to point to the Welshman starting as a center-forward. As we saw it unfold, it was clear he was on the right flank in a deeper role, where, surprise surprise, he excels. For further reading on Bale’s positional wrinkles, read my latest for FourFourTwo.
- I loved how involved Achraf was in this game. You get a sense, as raw as he is, that once he’s polished, he’ll be really good. He has the tools. His pace to catch up to some of the through-balls slung his way tonight was ridiculous, and as I’ve written before, he has good defensive IQ (not necessarily apparent in this game, but more of a general observation of him without the ball). Alongside Modric and Kroos, Achraf had the most touches of anyone on the field. He also had four completed dribbles, and a goal which perfectly manifested his pace and off-ball movement stemming from deep.
- Two quick shoutouts before I leave you for Toni Kroos and Isco. Kroos subtly controlled the tempo, and Isco had some magical touches, including a golazo — a classic R2 + O finish from a cut-in.
- There was a lot more you could say about this game, given that everyone played well, really. This was an insanely comfortable win and a good performance. Nice to see, regardless of what was at stake.