The game before the game. La Liga was done and dusted, but Madrid had one last dress rehearsal before the Champions League Final. Interestingly, Zidane chose arguably his strongest eleven— excluding Keylor Navas. A certain Luca Zidane was the selected goalkeeper on the night, the only squad player not to have played some minutes this season. The game was a tale of two halves. Madrid were superb in the first half moving the ball with pace and precision and collectively pressing high to hound the opposition. In the second half, with Kiev on the mind, Madrid’s level dropped and Villarreal was able to stage a comeback.
Here's our starting line-up for tonight's match against @Eng_Villarreal!#RMMovistar | #HalaMadrid pic.twitter.com/iYWEezA7Pg— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) May 19, 2018
Luca Zidane—6.5: A surprise La Liga debut for Zidane’s son. Like the rest of the team did well in the first half and was quick with his distribution. Had a great save on a Sansone free kick. Villarreal equalized when they set Castellejo through on goal 1v1 against Luca, who flapped at the ball and showed his inexperience.
Dani Carvajal—7: After three weeks out, it was a good return to the team. Dani showed good fitness levels and pressed well in the first half.
Raphael Varane—7.5: The best defensively of the back-four. Varane has improved on his ability to foray forward into the attack and break through opposition lines.
Sergio Ramos—6.5: Gave away a number of simple passes in first half. Will need to clean that up before the UCL final or Liverpool will punish him. Like the rest of the team, took the foot of the pedal in the second half. Made one crucial goal line save.
Marcelo—7: Delivered a wonderful assist with the outside of his boot, extending Madrid’s lead to two in the first half. He was a constant nuisance to the Villarreal backline, pressing high and attacking with every opportunity.
Casemiro—8: Phenomenal. Made some crucial interruptions and a number of well timed slide tackles. He was confident and composed in possession.
Luka Modric—6: Uncharacteristically quiet performance from Luka. He had a good first half, connecting the constant interchanging pieces of the Madrid attack and even cane close to nabbing a goal himself. In the second half, gave away too many passes and struggled with Villarreal’s growing pressure.
Toni Kroos—8: Like Casemiro, Toni Kroos has come into top form heading into the final. Played pass after pass to set his team off on the attack.
Isco—7.5: Magia, had some wonderful touches to see himself out of pressure and roamed about the pitch, keeping the team connected.
Gareth Bale—7.5: Scored a goal out of nothing with his right foot. The Welshman is confident and in-form. The big question—will he get the nod in Kiev? A week’s time will tell.
Cristiano Ronaldo—8: once again his movement in the box is unparalleled. If he doesn’t receive the ball, he constantly recycles his run to provide a new option. Marcelo clipped a perfect ball into the box and Ronaldo powered his header into the bottom corner for his 26th La Liga goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo scores in his TENTH consecutive league game.— Phil Kitromilides (@PhilKitro) May 19, 2018
Karim Benzema—6: Had two shots, both of which were on target but failed to find the back of the net.
Lucas Vazquez—6: As always, was active and put in a lot of effort but the team’s performance dropped in the second half and Lucas was unable to bring the same fluidity that was seen in the first forty-five.
Mateo Kovacic—6.5: Two tackles, nineteen passes at 93% accuracy, and 1 key pass. A decent outing for Mateo, but not enough to keep Villarreal from staging their comeback.
Zinedine Zidane—7: Zidane reserved no one (bar Keylor Navas) prior to the big Champions League final. His selection for the starting XI tonight may be an indication of his thoughts for Kiev. In the first half, the team was a joy to watch—jointly pressing high, free flow and interchanging of positions, crisp quick attacking passes, and goals from Bale and Cristiano. The team took their foot off the gas in the second half and gave up two goals. As to be expected, the focus had shifted mid game to the UCL, but Zidane will take confidence from the first half performance.