The new year has passed, and it is now time for Real Madrid to crack on and get back to business. A trip to Villarreal was on the cards, and despite the home side suffering their worst start to a league season in a long, long time - they were sure to provide a strong challenge as always for the European champions. The game ended in a 2-2 draw, and my player ratings can be seen below.
Thibaut Courtois — 5.5: Whilst I’m really not sure much could be done about Cazorla’s gorgeous opener, Courtois made a real mess of the header. The running joke that his legs are always vulnerable will only carry on after that one. On the ball he was sufficient and he made a couple of saves here and there, but this was one of the worst games I’ve seen from him.
Dani Carvajal — 6: Played an important part in the first goal, and put in some important blocks and challenges. Worked really hard to cover ground in attack and defence on the right hand side, however did get caught out on occasion. Was poorly placed during Villarreal’s opening goal, and largely ineffective with his crosses into the box.
Sergio Ramos — 6: Very much at fault for letting Santi Cazoral slip through and score a rare header late on. It wasn’t the only time Ramos switched off during the game, but he did make plenty of defensive contributions. Comfortable on the ball as always and formed an important part of Madrid’s possessional play out from the back.
Raphaël Varane — 7: The strongest defender tonight. Scored Madrid’s second goal with a great headed effort into the bottom corner. Had a lot to do defensively as well, with Chukwueze running riot throughout the game. Also had to come in and clean up after a few Casemiro mistakes.
Marcelo — 5.5: A defensive horror show for familiar reasons. Samu Chukwueze took full advantage of Marcelo’s attacking tendencies, attacking that space time and time again. The Brazilian also had a full view of Cazorla running in behind Ramos for the equaliser, but no action was taken. Offensively provided very little as well.
Casemiro — 5.5: Not convinced by Casemiro’s return at all. Perhaps it is because I have become re-accustomed with Marcos Llorente’s attributes over the past few weeks. Casemiro’s weaknesses sure stood out here. His distribution was at times atrocious, and he spent a substantial amount of time ahead of both Kross and Modrić for little reason. That being said he did put in one really good block, and multiple key interceptions.
Toni Kroos — 7.5: Provided the delightful assist for Varane’s goal, and was at the centre of Madrid’s play. In a game consisting of a plethora of combination sequences, Toni Kroos was vital in keeping the visitors ticking.
Luka Modrić — 6: Another quiet but composed game by Luka. Although he wasn’t as involved as many of his fellow teammates, he covered plenty of ground and put together a fair few slick passes. Scored a goal but he was standing in an offside position when the ball came to him. He was replaced by Fede Valverde in the second half, after maybe taking a slight knock.
Lucas Vázquez — 5.5: A mixed bag for Lucas. Got an early assist for Benzema’s goal, but made some questionable decisions elsewhere. At one point a bit of luck put him clean through past two defenders, but he refused to hand Benzema a tap-in, and missed his own effort. That wasn’t his only missed chance, as he squandered a further two chances that would have put the game to bed.
Gareth Bale — 5.5: Bale came off injured at half time for Isco, but really did not do much at all when he was on the pitch. Attempted a couple of square passes into the box but failed. Did beat defenders for pace on the odd occasion. If he netted a hat-trick he’d of course be in for a perfect 10/10 though............
Karim Benzema — 7.5: Action packed game from Karim. His early goal was just the start of his mass involvement, as he went on to come close numerous times. He was also effective on the ball, playing in Vázquez for a strong chance in the second half. His link-up play was strong and stood out in a game of strong combinations. Potential man of the match for Madrid today.
Isco — 7.5: Isco came on at half time, and on the ball looked untouchable. The opposition could not seem to get near him. Had a strong effort at goal saved when the score-line was up in the air, but was unable to be decisive enough in attack to really hurt the opposition.
Fede Valverde — 6.5: Enjoyed this cameo. Looked a bit nervous initially, but Fede settled into this game well and looked to get on the ball. The more this lad plays the more fluent he will become with the team and his surroundings. That provides a challenge in itself, however.
Vinícius Júnior: Came on very late on as a sign of desperation from Solari. Didn’t get on the ball much, and actually looked very weak defensively. Of course he really did not have the time to do anything at all, though. If he’s not going to get significant minutes this weekend perhaps it’s time to give him a 90 for Castilla or something. No rating.
A disappointing start to 2019 for Madrid, but then again it’s hard to form clear expectations for this season based on current events. Of course, it should still be plausible for Solari’s men to beat a side like Villarreal, especially when taking their recent form into consideration. I still feel like Solari has faced no true test as of yet, and is still failing to impress. We can only wait and see what unfolds week by week, but it’s safe to say this roller-coaster isn’t a very entertaining one.