For the fourth time this season, Real Madrid found themselves up against CD Leganes. Yet this time, they only earned themselves a point as the match ended in 1-1 at the Estadio Municipal de Butarque.
So what changed exactly? Most notably was the major shift in attitude of the players which ultimately paved the way for the result. So let’s take some time to break this down.
To start off, Monday nights match saw a major shift in lineup.
Besides the obvious substitutions for Sergio Ramos, Thibaut Cortouis and Vinicius Junior who are all injured, some could say Zinedine Zidane was looking to try out some new options that we may see in the 2019/2020 season.
The team right from the start of the match looked very dejected. Everyone was lugging around on the pitch playing as if they didn’t really want to be there. Out of the entire starting XI, Isco, Marco Asensio and Fede Valverde were putting in the most effort.
Now it’s unsure as to whether or not the new line up or the unmotivated squad is responsible for the final result but regardless, Real Madrid gave Leganes the green light to take control.
So that’s exactly what they did.
In the first half Mauricio Pellegrino’s side made themselves known and capitalized on Madrid’s shaky performance on the pitch. They were more determined, more physical and looked ready to play despite only having 29 per cent of the possession during the first 45 minutes.
The home side made a strong use of their midfield triangle of Mikel Vesga, Ruben Perez and Javi Eraso who were consistenly shutting out Madrid. The entire flow of the game was already in their control.
As a result of Leganes’ approach, Madrid was playing very predictably.
When any midfielder grabed the ball after fighting for possession they immediately played it back to Marcelo who passed it towards Nacho, then to Raphael Varane and back out on the right to Dani Carvajal. The ball eventually found it was back over to Marcelo who was usually floating around somewhere up top.
Besides making the same play over and over again, the work done in the Madrid back line was sub par. On the wings, Carvajal’s crosses were certainly not to the caliber they used to be and Marcelo was constantly out of place.
Because of this, Nacho (who has not played that much this season) and Varane were forced to do most of the work. The pair was no match against Leganes’ physicality and determination.
The lack in performance was also the reason for the team conceding right before the halftime whistle. Modric, Isco and Asensio found themselves trying to cover players in the box rather than Marcelo and Carvajal.
When Jonathan Silva was given the opportunity to take a shot, nobody was really standing in the way. The backline was a complete disaster.
It was not until the second half that Zidane’s team started to wake up.
After the break they changed their predictable routine and decided to start moving more centrally. Midfield magician Luka Modric was the first to make the change and he ended up linking with Karim Benzema for the tying goal in the 51st minute.
Once they scored, Real Madrid really started amping up their game.
Casemiro was dropping into the defence which allowed Marcelo to move up without having any repercussions along the back. In addition to this, Isco and Asensio both followed the adaptation of Modric and both focused on playing forcefully down the middle while Valverde kept things clean at the back.
But while the shift in aggression was sucessful, the club was still missing one thing (the same thing it has been missing all season), a finisher.
Benzema has had a very good season so far, possibly one of his better ones for Madrid, but unfortunately his tally of 18 goals is not enough to save the club.
In this particular match, Asensio was doing his best to try and split the striker responsibility 50/50 and he did his best. The Spaniard had five shots, three of which were on target compared to the Frenchman’s two of three.
The club still has six more games before they finish the season and even though there is nothing left to play for, every player needs to find the will to play at their full potential right from the start of the match, not only in the second.