The final match in the 17th week of La Liga saw Real Madrid take on Valencia at the Mestalla. There was an anxious wait for the team sheet, as fans wondered, would Zidane risk Casemiro ahead of El Clasico or would the Brazilian finally get some rest? The answer was the latter, with Federico Valverde slotting into the holding midfield position alongside veterans Kroos and Modric. Zidane’s men showed a good composure and control within the opening 30 minutes of the match, but were unable to penetrate Valencia’s deep block. Ultimately Valencia would grow into the game and score the first goal. Celades men led until the 95th minute. It would be a leaping header from none other than Thibaut Courtois to force Domenech into a save and have Benzema pounce on the rebound and secure a point for Real Madrid in the dying seconds of the match. Full match player ratings below:
Thibaut Courtois—8: Still struggles with his feet and hoofed the ball ip the field to no particularly Real Madrid player on far too many occasions. If his feet improve, Madrid will have a better chance at breaking high presses from opposition teams. Though, aside from his ball playing distribution, Courtois was vital to keeping Valencia at bay and made some crucial saves. And of course, in the dying seconds of the match, the 6’5 keeper went up for a corner kick and connected with Kroos’ cross with a bullet header which could only be parried and later finished by Benzema.
Dani Carvajal—5: Not the best showing from the right back. Was overburdened with multiple 80 yard runs with no natural right winger present (Rodrygo switched from flank to flank and Isco roamed). The match physically took it’s toll and subsequently Carvajal had some heavy touches as well as misplaced passes.
Raphael Varane—8: The Frenchman was immense. Dealt well with the pace of Rodrigo and Ferran Torres while making multiple crucial toe poke tackles when defending 1 v 1.
Sergio Ramos—8: Like his center-back partner, Ramos was a rock at the back. Had a team high 4 tackles along with 2 interceptions.
Nacho—6: For his first game back from an injury, Nacho did a job at the left back position. Had a couple very dangerous whipped in crosses with his left foot, one which Benzema nearly scored from. Did physically lose out to Wass on an aerial duel which saw Valencia take Madrid’s back line on 4 v 3 and ultimately score.
Fede Valverde—7.5: Was placed in an unfamiliar defensive midfield role, but played well especially in the first half where he had a resounding 7 recoveries, higher than any other player. There were a few moments of undisciplined action from a tactical perspective where he would push forward or wide and leave a vacant hole in the middle of the pitch. But overall, was once again an important engine to the Real Madrid midfield.
Luka Modric—6: The Croatian did well to keep possession and continue to circulate the ball, but failed to produce any line-breaking passes or provide any real production to the Real Madrid attack.
Toni Kroos—7.5: The midfield metronome once again; everything went through the German.
Isco—4.5: Real Madrid, especially afternoon the opening 30 minutes, were far too risk averse. Isco was on the field to play between the lines and pull off those dangerous vertical passes in the final third. We didn’t see one. Valencia are so comfortable in a deep block, Madrid couldn’t afford to play it safe and needed more from a player granted the freedom to roam.
Rodrygo—5: An underwhelming game from the youngster, who looked to be in the mood early on but faded out of the game as the match wore on.
Karim Benzema—8.5: Man of the match - the French striker never gave up and worked tirelessly to break Valencia’s deep block down. At times, was Real Madrid’s only productive outlet. Had a team high and game high 6 key passes, team and game high of 6 shots, 2 completed dribbles, and the oh so crucial goal in the 95th minute to keep Madrid tied neck and neck with Barcelona.
Gareth Bale—4.5: Seemed to have a laissez-faire attitude after coming on and produced very little during his 25 minutes.
Vinicius JR—4.5: Entered the match with Bale in a double substitution, but it just didn’t come off for either on the night. The youngster still looks so devoid of confidence and his decision making left a lot to be desired.
Luka Jovic—6: Had very few touches after coming into the match (4 total) but did manage to find the back of the net only for the Serbian to be rightly ruled offside.