After back to back draw’s, Real Madrid travelled to Barcelona to take on Espanyol in search of that winning feeling. Carlo Ancelotti once again made changes to his starting XI. Lucas Vazquez was given another opportunity at right back, Toni Kroos returned after his injury, and Camavinga was in for Casemiro, but the 18-year-old played higher up the pitch. Alaba and Nacho reversed roles, with the Austrian at left back. The changes meant the team was out of sync and lacked rhythm. Ancelotti’s pressing system and ideas have yet to embed as natural habits, meaning there was once again massive gaps between the lines and plenty of holes for Espanyol to exploit. That’s exactly what Vincente Moreno’s men did — they scored two goals, but could have been three or four up prior to Benzema pulling one back. The international break comes at a good time for Real Madrid as the team have found themselves in a downward spiral. Full match player ratings below:
Thibaut Courtois—7: Not much Courtois could do on either of the goals conceded. Made two saves in the match and completed 4/4 long balls, as well as all 20 of his passes. Was visibly frustrated with the ease at which Espanyol could play through Madrid’s defensive structure.
Lucas Vazquez—4: Still does not look entirely comfortable at right back. Allowed RDT to get goal side of him on the first goal conceded and failed to pass on / communicate with his center back partner, Militao. Had a few needless fouls and struggled when Embarbra moved to Madrid’s right flank.
Militao—3: The Brazilian has not been able to rediscover his best form at the start of the season. He is constantly late to press and push up the backline. On the first goal conceded, needed to check his shoulder and track RDT’s run. On the second goal conceded, allowed for too large of a gap to form between he and Nacho which Vidal exploited with ease. For second game running, missed a number of good opportunities via a connection with a set-piece.
Nacho—4.5: Better from the center back position than from fullback. His passing out of the back was good, always leading players with a firm pass on their stronger foot. Made the decision to step to Vidal on the second goal conceded, a gamble which in hindsight may have been better just waiting and dropping to recover shape, but Ancelotti’s system means players are asked to constantly step out and close down space. The bigger issue was the lack of cover behind Nacho.
Alaba—6: Played at left back and had the freedom to roam centrally and help connect the dots in build up play. Managed 3 key passes and was more impactful than Nacho typically is from the left flank, but struggled in transition like the rest of the Madrid squad.
Camavinga—6: Played 45 minutes as the left central midfielder and the highest out of the three. Ancelotti looked like he wanted to use Camavinga on the left and Fede on the right to provide additional numbers centrally when off the ball. Sustained a heavy blow to his foot and had to come off at halftime.
Luka Modric—5: Really poor defending on the second goal conceded, where Vidal just glides past the Croatian. Never found his groove in this match and yet to rekindle the type of form displayed at the start of last season.
Toni Kroos—4.5: Surprisingly played as the lone pivot with Ancelotti hoping the German could dictate play from deeper in midfield. The lack of a cohesive press left Toni and the rest of the midfield chasing shadows. Looked a little bit off the pace, as expected coming from a long-term injury.
Fede Valverde—6.5: One of the better players in this game thanks in large part to his tireless engine and never-say-die attitude. Improved in the second half when he played centrally rather than on the right wing.
Vinicius JR—6: The Brazilian’s blistering form to start the season has started to wane. Still was able to create the odd opening through a dribble or disguised pass.
Karim Benzema—8.5: A one man team at times — Karim Benzema scored a brilliant goal, provided 4 key passes, and had 4 completed dribbles. Where would Madrid be without the Frenchman?
Rodyrgo Goes—6.5: Impactful coming off the bench and providing a threat from the right wing. Played the long ball into Jovic’s chest which started the play on the lone goal Madrid scored.
Luka Jovic—6.5: Managed to notch an assist with a lovely chest control and pass wide to Benzema. Showed good strength on the ball.
Eden Hazard—7: Looked determined to make a positive impact after stepping on the pitch. Played like a central midfielder, dropped very deep to help move Madrid further up the pitch. Scored a great goal, but was called back for an offsides decision on Benzema.
Casemiro—5: Replaced Toni Kroos in midfield with 30 minutes left to play and Madrid 2-0 behind. Had a few good interceptions and a long shot that went wide, but otherwise was quiet.