After Barcelona’s surprising loss to Granada midweek, Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid were granted another lease of life in La Liga. Rotations were expected, but the wholesale changes that may have been anticipated prior to the Barcelona result, were no longer. Zidane was able to rest Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, but the rest of the team picked themselves given the injuries in the squad. It was another start for Castilla co-captain, Antonio Blanco, acting in a double pivot with Casemiro while Eden Hazard got his first start in over 90 days, playing in attacking quadrant with Benzema, Asensio, and Vinicius JR.
Without Kroos and Modric, the biggest concern for Madrid would be how they build out from the back. Osasuna kept a narrow defensive shape, meaning there was always a free man open on the weak side. Blanco, Casemiro, Militao, and Varane all did a good job in identifying the switch and playing the pass when it was on — thus releasing Odriozola or Marcelo to whip in a good cross. In a ten minute period, from the 23rd to the 33rd minute, Real Madrid produced no less than six goal-scoring opportunities. Among them were two towering Militao headers which forced Sergio Herrea into spectacular saves. Despite Zidane’s men knocking on the door, Madrid and Osasuna headed into the break goaless.
13 - @realmadriden have made 13 shots vs Osasuna at the half time, more than any other first half in a single game for them in all comps being the local team to have made the most shots without scoring in this half in #LaLiga this season level with Barcelona vs Levante(13). Edge pic.twitter.com/V2ILqOoJpy— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 1, 2021
The second half started with a surprise substitution. Nacho entered for Raphael Varane, the Frenchman reportedly felt physical discomfort in his right leg. As has often been the case for Real Madrid’s second half, there was a noticeable drop-off in energy levels. The only chance created in the first twenty minutes of the second 45, came from a Marco Asensio free-kick which found Militao. The Brazilian connected with the delivery but couldn’t keep his shot on target. From set pieces alone, Militao could have had a hat-trick in this match.
In order to spring some life into this team, Zidane substituted both Marcelo and Vinicius JR for Miguel Guttierrez and Rodrygo Goes. Osasuna found their defensive shape and had success keeping Madrid off the board and preventing any dangerous opportunities. Zidane needed some sort of change to open the game up, thus replacing Hazard with Isco in the 71st minute. It would be an Isco whipped in corner that connected with who else, but Eder Militao, the Brazilian making his fourth connection with a set-piece and finally getting a deserved goal. It was another stand out performance from Militao, who has gone from strength to strength and proven himself as a Real Madrid player.
The dam broke after the first goal. The second came quickly after with Karim Benzema producing a driving run from the center circle, then slipping in Casemiro, who took a fortuitous touch and ended up scoring a goal that he likely didn’t intend to score! With a 2-0 lead, Madrid were able to take further control of the game and enter cruise control for the final ten minutes.
All focus now turns to Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge. A recharged Toni Kroos and Luka Modric will hopefully pay dividends as the team look to secure yet another Champions League final under Zinedine Zidane.