Celta Vigo 1-3 Real Madrid (Benzema x2, Asensio). A routine away win. This is the immediate reaction. Player ratings, press conference highlights, and the post game podcast are on the way.
With the pathway to a potential Champions League final now known, Real Madrid’s attitude towards the league could well take a shift from this game onwards. Atlético Madrid had once again failed to expand their lead to nine points with another loss, but that still meant that Los Blancos remained six points behind with 11 games to go. With the mixed form of all three leading teams, alongside some big fixtures left to play out - the title race could still sway in any direction. The strong line-up selected by Zidane reflected this, with Hugo Duro once again being the only outfield Castilla player called to the bench.
The intensity of Real Madrid’s start also clearly demonstrated their intent, as they set themselves up high and looked to ask questions of the Celta defence immediately. The players looked primed and sharp, with Luka Modrić once again impressing from midfield, helping the team to enjoy a large amount of possession. Karim Benzema has been everything for Madrid this season, but his opening goal today continued what must be one of the best runs of form of his entire career. Toni Kroos picked Karim out inside the box, and the Frenchman naturally found the bottom corner as calmly as you like. Benzema then created an open goal opportunity for Vinícius Júnior, who judged it completely wrong and chested the ball over the target. Denis Suárez came the closest for the hosts, but his effort could not best the crossbar. Celta would pay for this as Karim Benzema made it two on the half-hour mark, again being assisted by Kroos - this time via a high press. Karim picked the ball up in the box once more, but this time had to beat a defender before slotting home. Despite the domination, Celta pulled one back through a Santi Mina header to make things interesting. The game just about managed to pull through to half time without any further goals...
The pacing severely dropped for the first ten minutes of the second half. Perhaps this was deliberately on Madrid’s part in attempt to contain the growing Celta Vigo threat from the end of the first half. Thibaut Courtois was called into action to make a low save stopping a shot from Iago Aspas. Marco Asensio came on in place of Toni Kroos to switch the formation up to a riskier back three type structure, but this did little to change the pace of the game. Aspas came close again from a free-kick this time, but Courtois was equal to it once more. In added time, Karim Benzema registered an assist as he set up Marco Asensio with a cross for a tap-in to ensure a comfortable 3-1 win.
Karim Benzema is at it again for Real Madrid!— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) March 20, 2021
Toni Kroos really threaded the needle for that brilliant assist too pic.twitter.com/BDclgbN00w
For what feels like the hundredth time this season, this win puts Real Madrid within three points from the top of the table. Leaders Atlético do have a game in hand, though. The second half was a real drag in comparison to the first, but Madrid did enough to maintain and deserve the win, even scoring once more towards the end. Next week is a relaxed one, with only one game on the fixture list, at home to Eibar on Saturday. The week after is when things really get tasty, with the Champions League tie against Liverpool commencing as well as an important league Clásico against Barcelona to play. For now, all we can do is enjoy this win. What did you think about the performance?