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Player Ratings: Real Madrid 1 - Atletico Madrid 0; 2020 La Liga

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Zidane’s halftime changes provided the spark to drive Real Madrid to a derby victory

Real Madrid CF v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

For the first time in 8 years, Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid in La Liga at the Santiago Bernabeu. Zinedine Zidane initially set his team out with a five man midfield, similar to the set up used in the Spanish Super Cup. The first half saw Atletico Madrid as the superior side due to the ineffective five man midfield. The system was far too conservative for Real Madrid. When the team transitioned to attack, there were very few advanced options. The men in white had no one to combine with down the wing and no one to break a player down 1 v 1. Credit to Zidane, as the Frenchman recognized this and made two changes at the break introducing Vinicius JR and Lucas Vazquez. The Brazilian was instrumental in breaking down Atletico and creating something out of nothing to produce the first goal. The three points remained with the league leaders and now focus turns to Thursday against Real Sociedad in the Copa Del Rey. Full match ratings below:

Thibaut Courtois—8: Another clean sheet for the Belgian wall. Most of his important work came in the first half with two big saves on Angel Correa.

Dani Carvajal—7: Had very little support in the first half, but did a good job locking down Vitolo and Saul. As we come to expect with Dani, was relentless in his pressing and effort.

Raphael Varane—7: The whole backline continues to impress and Varane was consistently good yet again. Closed down passing lanes, cut off counter attacks, and distributed well out of the back.

Sergio Ramos—8: Had Morata in his back pocket all game long. Had a couple golden opportunities to score in the first half, but did not take his chances.

Ferland Mendy—8.5: That second half was the best Mendy has played in a Real Madrid shirt. Curled in a inch perfect cross for the assist to Benzema and was very comfortable on the ball. Nothing got by him down Madrid’s left flank. What a signing the Frenchman is becoming.

Casemiro—8: Yet again, the Brazilian was a key cog in the Madrid midfield. His composure on the ball is leaps and bounds better than it was just a few years ago. Put in two crucial tackles on Morata in the first half to deny goal scoring opportunities.

Toni Kroos—5.5: Yanked off at halftime due to the gluttony of midfielders. Did not perform poorly, but failed to make any real impact.

Luka Modric—8: The Croatian was everywhere tonight and worked tirelessly for the team. Produced 4 interceptions along with his 2 key passes, working both ways up and down the pitch.

Fede Valverde—8.5: Along with Mendy and Vinicius, Valverde was the best player on the pitch. He somehow manages to toe-poke and intercept passes and ball carriers that just a few seconds earlier would seem an unfathomable feat. He has become the heartbeat of the Real Madrid midfield.

Isco—4: Null and ineffective. Rightly substituted at halftime.

Karim Benzema—7: Great finish from Ferland Mendy’s inch perfect cross. A big game and a big goal for big Benz.

Substitutions:

Vinicius JR—8.5: What more can you ask from a substitute? Produced a bit of magic to play Mendy through and become the architect of Real Madrid’s first goal. Tracked back and followed his defensive duties. Looks a very confident player and Zidane has managed him back into the fold.

Lucas Vazquez—7.5: Another great substitution. Lucas provided much needed width and energy down the right flank.