The Champions League is back and the triple holders returned to action tonight against last season’s heroic semi-finalists Roma! Lopetegui decided to stir the pot on this one and handed Keylor Navas the start. Casemiro returned into the midfield, and Asensio was benched to accommodate for Isco in the starting eleven.
Roma handed a professional debut to youngster Nicolò Zaniolo. No shocks besides that though, as they kept eight players in from their last game: a 2-2 draw in Serie A against Chievo Verona. They would end up offering little to no threat to Madrid’s defence, in what would be a dominant display from the home side as they cruised to a comfortable 2-0 victory. My player ratings are as so:
Keylor Navas — 6.5: Brought back in after Courtois looked to have gained an upper hand in the fight for the number one jersey. Did have a few shakes and spills here and there, but on the whole it was a strong performance from the goalkeeper. There wasn’t too much to do on a relatively quiet night, but his saves contributed to Madrid’s second clean-sheet of the season.
Dani Carvajal — 6.5: At times Dani turned up all over the place positionally, but remained solid at the back and also pushed forwards well. He was the sole barricade to a few of Roma’s bland attacks throughout the game.
Raphaël Varane — 7.5: I’d score him higher, but he simply didn’t have that much to do in this game. Most of Roma’s efforts, and there weren't many, came in the form of slow counter-attacks. attempting to use the width to stretch the defence. Whatever came Varane’s way he dealt with easily however.
Sergio Ramos — 7.5: Continues to be an ever so important figure when Madrid attempt to play out of an opposition press from the back line. His classy touches and clever drives and passes are nearly always of use in situations like this, and Madrid have certainly faced stronger presses already this season. He had the usual handful of chances from corners and dead balls, but the closest he came was a headed effort that just got tipped over the bar by Olsen.
Marcelo — 7.5: I don’t really know how to rate a player like Marcelo. He has made his position his own, with his unique style and is obvious encouraged to do so. He does however play to his strengths consistency well almost every game. This game was no different, and he was a constant outlet on that left hand side. Defensively he was caught out on occasion for being so high up the pitch, but in this game the opposition did not come up with the goods to punish it. Got the assist for Mariano’s goal in stoppage time.
Casemiro — 6: Brought back into the side to add some balance into the midfield, and managed to do just that. Made some important defensive challenges and interceptions, but was caught in possession whilst under pressure on the odd occasion. Still, he did his job well enough!
Toni Kroos — 7: Controlled the tempo of the game with his passing, for the majority of the match, Took a few wayward long shots, but remained a vital cog in the Real Madrid machine that incessantly looked to pin Roma back and hammer down the door to goal.
Luka Modrić — 8: I thought Luka was different gravy tonight, and was the man of the match. The game started quite slowly but Luka used his experience and world class touch to gradually impose himself and the team into the game. He was constantly picking key passes out and his assist for Gareth Bale’s goal was trademark Luka Modrić. After being eased back into proceedings so far this season, this was Luka’s best performance so far - and leaves plenty to build on.
Isco — 7 :Rotated well with Bale and Benzema, and added a touch of class to the attack. He scored Madrid’s opening goal right on the half-time mark. A curling free-kick over the wall and beyond the goalkeepers reach. Much like Luka Modrić, Isco provided a good deal of key passes, often directly into the box. Madrid missed plenty of chances tonight but they still had to create those chances in the first place. Another good showing from Isco.
Karim Benzema — 6: The man in form. Karim went by his business as usual and linked up well with his fellow attackers. He wasn’t blessed with many chances at goal in this game, so was kept from being trigger happy by the Roma defence. He looked to be the creator rather than the finisher for this one. He was substituted for Asensio around the 60 minutes.
Gareth Bale — 6.5: Had plenty of interactions, but initially left his scoring boots in the dressing room. Provided a constant threat for the Roma defence, but his end product just wasn’t there for much of this game. It looked inevitable that he would bag at least one though, and that he did as he latched onto a quality Modrić pass to slot coolly past the keeper. Eventually made way for the new number 7 to make his mark.
Marco Asensio — 7: Entered the field and looked to run at the defenders. Took a few exceptional touches, one taking him into the box followed by a ‘no look’ strike that was saved by the keeper. Turned up the entertainment notch a tad after his arrival.
Mariano — 7.5: You can watch any player in the world, with any given amount of ability, nut if they’re not up for it on the day you can be left disappointed. Mariano Díaz is a player that I have watched closely every since his early Castilla days now, and he has always been brimming with confidence. Taking the number 7 shirt after Cristiano Ronaldo has left in no mean feat, and automatically brings in the boo boys and some pressure with it. After sitting on the bench for the last couple of games, Mariano took it all in his stride tonight. He came on and showed that he means business. He was linking up with his teammates, driving at the defence, working as tremendously hard as always off of the ball - and he finished it all off with a wonder goal. He received the ball outside of the box, and curled a shot into the top corner during stoppage time. I for one am so glad that Mariano Díaz is back.
Dani Ceballos — 5: Came on for Modrić in the 85th minute. Perhaps a little late to make too much of an impact.
There’s my first ever player ratings piece done and dusted. Please do make sure to me know your thoughts as well as your own player ratings in the comments! Once again, many thanks for tuning in to Twitter for my live match updates, and giving this article a read! Until next time...