Celta Vigo was the first of two non-consequential matches left on the league schedule as the 2017-18 league wraps up. The primary purpose of the match from Real Madrid’s perspective was to build and maintain momentum ahead of the Champions League final. Zidane decided to start a fairly strong line-up with the major absentees being Carval, Ronaldo, and Ramos. The former two due to injury and the latter likely for some rest.
The big news on Celta’s front was Iago Aspas who was presumably left on the bench to start the match as he was recovering from a hamstring injury.
Celta’s impressive possession but little offensive threat
Celta displayed an impressive style of possession football (especially at the beginning) as they swiftly combined in midfield and advanced areas with short well timed passes. This was supported by a scheme that saw them insistently play from the back. However, despite having some promising chances, they failed to create many truly threatening opportunities. They struggled to penetrate Real Madrid’s defensive structure and relied on speculative shots and crosses.
Real Madrid’s dominant right side
In a somewhat unusual turn, Real Madrid’s right side was more dominant than the left and created most of the danger over the ninety minutes. Modric, Hakimi, and Bale tormented Celta’s left back with the young Moroccan international getting in on the action early in the first half. He played great one-twos with Modric and showed excellent speed to beat his man (and drive directly into the box) on several occasions – he slightly miscalculated his final passes or he could have recorded some assists in the first half. He was rewarded for his fantastic work and constant drive with a goal in the second half.
Gareth Bale had a monstrous performance and capitalized on the open space he was afforded as a result of Celta’s loose marking and high line. The forward scored the first two goals of the match thanks to incredible anticipation, speed, and skill. Tactically, these are Bale’s favourite types of games. Opponents that don’t play too compact and allow him time and space to make runs behind the defense (or have 1v1 isolated matchups) provide him with the best platform. Another notable aspect of the performance was how many balls were played to him which contrasts starkly against some matches where it seems teammates do not recognize the runs and movements he makes.
The hosts run away with the game thanks to superb finishing
Real Madrid scored six goals significantly outperforming their expected goals (1.96). Los Blancos’ finishing was sublime. Bale (second goal), Isco, and Hakimi all effortlessly finished chances from tight/awkward angles that provided a boost to the performance. Kroos and an own goal were responsible for the other two goals.
There are exactly two games left on the schedule with vastly different implications. One is a complete dead rubber on the road against Villarreal where Zidane will have to make careful decisions about who to rest and who needs minutes. The other game is the biggest game of the season. It’s the showdown against Liverpool where Real Madrid have the chance to continue to extend their history defying Champions League streak.