Real Madrid’s unconvincing performance against Leganes in the second-leg of the Copa del Rey round of-16 but are through to the next round despite a 1-0 loss.
There was not much throughout the game and naturally, there is even less to review in this piece.
The team looked as though they were participating in a pre-season match rather than playing against a side who has the potential to knock them out of the competition (and has done so before).
Issues right from the start resulted in the team’s loss and things certainly have to change if they want any chance of making it past the quarterfinals.
Like in the first leg, head coach Santiago Solari was handed a long list of injuries which most recently includes Karim Benzema as the Frenchman is out with a fractured finger.
As a result, he had even less options to try and create a lineup that could put on a good performance at the Estadio Municipal de Butarque.
Solari knew that being up 3-0 in aggregate meant that the team had a little bit of cushion during this match and he used that as an opportunity to try another formation experiment lining up his selective healthy players in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Most notably, Isco and Marcelo found themselves back in the starting lineup with the Brazilian playing as a left winger opposite of Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius Jr. moved into a striking role.
Marcelo’s move was to try and inspire more movement down the left and have Vinicius’ creativity on the end of the ball but a poor individual performance added nothing. Plus, taking the team’s most exciting player out of his usual position stunts any additional growth.
As a result, most of the work was done down the right hand side through Vazquez and Alvaro Odriozola making the team very unbalanced and Leganes often knew where the ball was going and were invited to intercept.
At halftime there was only 164/267 passes completed (averaging out to 40 per cent possession), 25 balls losses and one goal attempt.
Couple that with the fact that there was hardly any midfield possession from Casemiro and Fede Valverde, Real Madrid did not look like a threat at all.
The decision to bring Dani Ceballos on for Sergio Reguilon and place Marcelo back in his usual role helped in the second half but did not make too much of an impact.
Most noticeably, whether the team lines up as a 4-3-3, a 3-5-2 or a 4-2-3-1, Real Madrid needs to play with at least two (but preferably three) centre-backs.
The lack of solidity at the back resulted in Leganes’ Martin Braithwaite scoring the games only goal as the defence was out of positioning.
The team’s love for attacking full-backs has to settle down because relying on players like Marcelo, Odriozola and Reguilon to work double-time in defence and attack leads to too many gaps and therefore costly mistakes.
Having a solid backline with Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Nacho (combined with a reliable keeper like Keylor Navas) is necessary in helping the team step up their defensive duties.
The Costa Rican was the teams best player over the course of 90 minutes as he time and time again kept the scoreline at 1-0 with some tremendous goalkeeping against Leganes’ attacking threats.
Of course Solari’s decision to experiment with his team can be applauded but the project was certainly a failure.
Despite this being a smaller competition for Real Madrid, their sub-par performance serves them yet another loss and testifies to their struggling season.
The team will find out their next opponents on January 18, 2019.