Real Madrid resumed action after the break with a visit to Getafe where obtaining three points was of utmost importance due to Barcelona having a two point advantage at the start of the match day. Zidane was still faced with a number of injuries and suspensions (such as Hazard, Asensio, and Ramos) while not wanting to risk recently recovered players including Marcelo and James who may not be match fit.
The French manager decided to go with a sort of asymmetric 4-3-3 with Isco occupying his usual floating free role but Bale not operating as a strict forward due to the defensive support he was required to provide. Militao was selected to deputize for Ramos while the classic Casemiro-Kroos-Modric midfield was utilized.
Getafe’s press and Real Madrid’s stagnant offense
Real Madrid were generally held off by a stoic Getafe in the first half as Los Merengues struggled to impose themselves against a compact and staunch home side. Getafe’s selective high pressing in addition to their overall strategy of compressing the field with bodies in their defensive half significantly curtailed Real Madrid’s possession and fluidity in the offensive third.
The visitors couldn’t generate anything of great substance going forward with the solitary goal in the first half arriving courtesy of an own goal when David Soria mishandled a cross in the 34th minute. Bale and Benzema were often denied space when they received the ball with their backs to goal due to Getafe employing aggressive and physical tactics to limit the forwards’ touches. These scenarios led to frequent outcomes of either the forwards losing the ball or retreating with a backwards pass.
Getafe’s sporadic threat and Carvajal/Mendy positioning
Getafe, while also not managing continuous intentional offense, did force Courtois into a number of key saves. These were mostly outliers (arising from fortunate rebounds/bounces from clearances) as Zidane’s men continued their rich vein of dominant defensive displays. Militao and Varane were aggressive in stepping up to meet attackers to dispossess them. Mendy and Carvajal were reliable on the flanks and allowed very few entries via those channels.
One notable aspect of Real Madrid’s game was the lack of width as Carvajal and Mendy didn’t supply the same level of overlapping runs as is typical. Getafe focused on closing down these channels and guiding play into a congested centre while the Real Madrid fullbacks seemed to also deliberately play more conservatively.
Varane’s goal and Zidane’s changes
Real Madrid capitalized on their height advantage in the 53rd minute as Varane dominantly rose to nod Kroos’ delivery into the net. This goal changed the dynamic of the game progressively forcing Getafe out of their shell. They increased the frequency of their collective high pressing which led to Real having to be precise and sharp in their passing in order to exit the latter’s half.
Real Madrid resorted to some more direct play looking to bypass Getafe’s tightly guarded midfield zone and play over the top to Benzema and Bale. While this led to the forwards being isolated and having to delay play in order for support to arrive, it did work successfully in other occasions such as Bale’s excellent chance in the 65th minute.
Zidane made some changes towards the end of the match to stabilize the tempo and improve controlled verticality. Isco, who had been rendered relatively anonymous by the hosts’ physical intensity and tactical fouling, was replaced by Vinicius while Valverde was introduced for Kroos. Jovic would be the third and final substitute coming in for Benzema. Vinicius’ speed and Valverde’s industry were critical in breaking down Getafe. Getafe’s exposure/vulnerability put them at far greater risk as a result of their fatigue and the fresh legs of action-oriented players such as Valverde and Vinicius with the former making the run leading to the third goal.