The COVID impacted players — which saw Alaba and Isco to the list this week — the suspensions (Casemiro), and the injuries (Carvajal) left Carlo Ancelotti with just three first team players on the bench. The starting XI picked itself with Camavinga coming in for Casemiro and the only question being if Hazard would be fit enough for another start or if Jovic would partner Benzema up top in a system change. It would be two important goals from the Pichichi that would lead Madrid to victory. The second half saw Madrid suffer, but they managed to escape San Mames with a victory. Full match player ratings below:
✅ Our starting XI @Athletic_en! #AthleticRealMadrid pic.twitter.com/e9wdcxFp8E— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) December 22, 2021
Thibaut Courtois—7: Made two big saves including one that saw the ball stopped by catching Nico William’s shot in between his legs.
Lucas Vazquez—6: Aside from one very poor pass towards Courtois that was intercepted by Inaki Williams, was an improved performance at right back. Lucas’ form always seems to improves with continuity.
Eder Militao—8: Another very good game from Eder Militao, the Brazilian won all of his aerial duels and kept the duo of Inaki Williams and Oihan Sancet quiet.
Nacho—7: Defended really well 1 v 1 against both Williams brothers, including an astute play covering Nico Williams and denying him the cross despite the young Bilbao player’s lethal pace. One mark on his book could be on the goal scored by Sancet, arguably could have gotten closer to close down the shot.
Ferland Mendy—6: Offers very little going forward, but had more than one duel against each Williams brother where he showed off his impressive physical strength.
Eduardo Camavinga—4: Shaky game all around. He had a few good crunching tackles, but for the most part was not comfortable in the lone pivot position. Took shots when they were not on, had some heavy touches which nearly led to counter attacks, and has already earned his 5th yellow of the season meaning he misses the next match against Getafe.
Toni Kroos—7: Won all of his ground duels, team high of 114 touches, and an assist on Benzema’s goal. The German was once again the metronome to Real Madrid’s midfield.
Fede Valverde—5: When Madrid were in possession, Valverde would start from the right back position and then use his speed and agility to burst up the field carrying the ball or combing via a one-two interchange. The one complaint were that those bursts and interchanges were not frequent enough.
Eden Hazard—4: Played as a right winger and slowed the play down far too often. Never took on his man and struggled to keep up with important counter attacks near the end of the second half.
Vinicius Junior—5: Too many tricks and too many confrontations with Athletic Bilbao players rather than focusing on his game and his product in the final third. Will get some much needed rest over the holiday break.
Karim Benzema—8.5: Scored an iconic first time strike that curled perfectly into the bottom corner of the net. Just a few minutes later, nabbed the second after taking advantage of a deflection off of Unai Nunez.
Peter Federico—6: Played on the left wing instead of his preferred right wing for the final 5 minutes of the match. Featured more in a left wing back role than in a winger role. Was played through by Eduardo Camavinga on a counter attack and had a 1 v 1 with Atheltic Goalkeeper, Agirrezabala, and hit his first time shot right at the keeper. Just a minute or so later, found some space on the wing and cut the ball back for Luka Jovic who should have done a lot better.
Mariano—2: A very poor cameo in the final 5 minutes. Strangely played as a right winger and lost the ball twice leading to dangerous counter attacking opportunities for Athletic and then overhit a long ball to Peter on Madrid’s own dangerous counter.
Luka Jovic—2: Came on in the 89th minute for Karim Benzema. Had a great opportunity to score after Peter set him up, but took a very soft shot with his left foot right at Agirrezabala.