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Immediate Reaction (2019 UEFA Champions League Group Stages, Matchday 3): Galatasaray 0 - 1 Real Madrid

Real Madrid emerge victorious in a comically mediocre game.

Galatasaray v Real Madrid: Group A - UEFA Champions League Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid beat Galatasaray 1-0 in what was billed as a match that would determine the fate of Zinedine Zidane’s job. If that really was the case, then Real Madrid couldn’t have planned to face an easier opponent.

  • Galatasaray were comically bad. They played a high line with little to no cohesion in their pressing efforts and were constantly exposed to transition attacks where they were often numerically outnumbered (despite playing with a back five). Assuming they could pass the ball out from the back without giving it up, their possession play was painfully slow and lacking in any real penetrative intent.
  • Hence, it says something about Real Madrid’s own defensive organization that the first half was about even in terms of the quality of chances created for both sides. Real Madrid’s defensive organization was probably the worst it had been all season, with a flat first line of pressure that allowed Galatasaray to cut past multiple players and attack acres of space in the middle with a single pass.
  • Madrid’s offense was a little better thanks to the combinations that Hazard, Benzema, Kroos, and Rodrygo could fashion in space, but it was telling to see just how much of Madrid’s attacks seemed to depend on improvisation. Despite Galatasaray’s horrific defensive compactness, Real didn’t create much from regular possession play.
  • The second half was more in Real Madrid’s favor, with Galatasaray showing even greater inefficiency in their build-up and Los Blancos pushing forward on more counter-attacks. Eden Hazard really should’ve made it 2-0 when he was released one-versus-one with the goalkeeper but he planted his shot onto the bar after freeing himself up to fire on an open goal.
  • Fede Valverde acquitted himself very well in what was a fairly chaotic game for significant swathes of both halves. His speed and work-rate enabled him to complete numerous ball recoveries and he displayed solid decision-making on the break.
  • Rodrygo didn’t play quite as well but showed some promising signs. His effort without the ball was good and he executed a couple of bright runs. But he was also anonymous for large portions of the match and looked about as raw as you’d expect an 18-year-old to look.
  • Thibaut Courtois was another notable performer for the saves he made early on in the first half. They were not ridiculously impressive but it was a welcome sight for a keeper who has struggled to prove that he is an above average shot stopper in his time at Real Madrid.
  • Whether there was real weight to this game or not in regard to Zidane’s job, the players were visibly nervous. Varane made inexplicable passing error after passing error in the opening minutes and the team as a whole were very tentative in their actions in the first half. Benzema also didn’t look quite like his decisive 2019 self while Hazard continued to struggle to find his old form despite showing flashes of quality.
  • Overall, Real Madrid deserved the win but this was not at all a performance to be proud of. This game poses just as many questions, if not more, than the loss to Mallorca did.

Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, and tactical review.

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