This may have been the toughest fixture left on the calender, and one that if Madrid were to win - would benefit them hugely when looking at the title race. Bilbao away is always a massive struggle, and the lack of supporters within the stadium wasn’t going to change that. After playing a game three days prior, Zidane made five changes to the line-up which included giving Éder Militão a run out in defence. The game was exactly as expected, with Madrid working hard to create very few openings. Another penalty goal from Sergio Ramos in the second half was enough to sneak out with a 1-0 victory as tempers flared.
Thibaut Courtois — 7: The list of clean-sheets just keeps getting longer for Thibaut. He is really started to cement his place among the very best goalkeepers in the world, if that was ever in doubt in the first place. This game was actually quieter than expected for him, but he still came up with the goods - making a good save in the first half to parry away a strong header.
Dani Carvajal — 7: Would have been another very fine display from Dani if not for a few decisions which could have been costly. An early chance to square it to Benzema for certain goal was blundered when he played the ball in the air rather than to feet. Elsewhere he was the culprit of a few misplaced passes, especially early on. Besides that though he was a constant threat down the right hand side and produced more offensively than Rodrygo managed to.
Sergio Ramos — 7: Not one of his better games since the season restarted, but he still decided the game one way or another. Helped maintain that clean-sheet, although some shoddy defending to allow a simple pass to reach Iñaki Williams, but the forward was offside anyway. His distribution was at times as wayward as many of his teammates’, but when the time really came he stepped up to score the winner from the spot in the most calm manner possible. Could have given a penalty away in a similar fashion to how Madrid’s was won, but the referee opted against using the whistle.
Éder Militão — 7.5: Stepped forward in place of Varane, and you wouldn't really have known the difference. Denied Iñaki driving through one on one twice, and never needed to recover as he was always positioned accordingly. I can’t remember this man having a better game in a Madrid shirt as of yet,.
Marcelo — 6.5: Silly passing mistakes were rampant from Madrid in the first half, and Marcelo certainly fell victim to this. Still, he recovered really well defensively to block an effort from Williams, despite the forward being offside. Later he was fouled to earn Real Madrid the chance from the spot.
Casemiro — 8: A massive shift from Casemiro, doing what he does best! One of the few players that looked good in possession throughout the game today - and without it he broke up the play magnificently. He did pick up a yellow card late on, but even that challenged looked really well timed. A potential man of the match performance?
Fede Valverde — 6: Worked very hard in a position that is more advanced than his usual role, but I wasn’t really having much of this performance from Fede today. At times in possession he was very careless, and out of it he looked a tad lost. Either way, this performance does not change my opinion that he still will have a huge say in this title race.
Luka Modrić — 8: Luka aged like wine in this game, and come the end it was just getting a bit silly. His press resistance including nutmegs and flicks only served to make the Bilbao players more angry - to the point where it kicked off towards the end when one player did not like being humiliated at all. They’ll know not to mark Luka, next time...
Rodrygo Goes — 6: Looked really one dimensional on the right hand side, and could not muster much in terms of creativity. Had a chance to score, but headed the ball over the bar. Whilst the ball from Asensio was quality - it was coming in rather quick to make a concrete decision.
Marco Asensio — 7: For a player that has gone so long without playing, Marco looked one of the better players on the pitch. His mannerisms and excitement when carrying the ball really brought something to the game down that left-hand side, and on another day he would have left with at least a goal or assist to his name. A very promising display indeed...
Karim Benzema — 6: A quieter showing from the striker who has played an awful lot lately. He still had the chance to get onto the score-sheet after bringing the ball down well in the area, but chose not to pull the trigger when he had more time than he thought. Apart from that he struggled to get behind the stern Bilbao defence. Some lovely touches in areas kept the ball moving nicely though.
Lucas Vázquez — 6: I actually really liked the interactions of Lucas after he came on. He did well to calm the play down, and made the right decisions in the right areas. This is everything Zidane would have asked for. For that reason, he earns a rating after just 15 or so minutes played.
Vinícius Júnior: Vinícius has been performing the opposite to superbly in recent times after a surge of good form, but was unable to continue that run in the short space of time afforded to him today. We did get to witness his ever improving defensive influence, but he still did not manage to do enough to earn a rating today.
Toni Kroos: Came on and almost scored after Modrić looked to slip him through, but he just missed the ball. Was a useful peacekeeper in the fight? No rating.
Luka Jović: I saw him come on, but never saw him again after that. No rating.
This win puts Real Madrid in a very comfortable position with only four league games to go. Of those four - on paper three of them are more than winnable. Only Villarreal at home pose a threat. Of course, things rarely turn out they way they should on paper. But with the way this team are playing after earning four clean-sheets in a row now, and winning every single game since the season restarted - there are plenty of reasons to be more than hopeful at this stage. What did you think about the game, and who would your man of the match be?