After a disappointing 0-1 loss against Getafe last week—only the second loss of the league season—Real Madrid looked to gain momentum against a tough Valencia defensive block.
Ancelotti rested several key players in the midweek Copa del Rey game against Alcoyano, so Courtois, Mendy, Modrić, and Benzema had a whole week of rest ahead of this Valencia tie. Other than the absence of Dani Carvajal, Ancelotti could field his strongest starting XI for this game.
Valencia and their deeper block proved to be a struggle for Real initially. Valencia coach José Bordalás set up a defensive system that alternated frequently between a 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 depending on the position of Yunus Musah. They occasionally pressed during goal kicks but for the most part, preferred to defend deep.
For me one of the most interesting tactical bits from Valencia is Musah's positioning and how it has changed throughout the game. In the 1st half he was on the right pressing more vs Kroos, now he's on the other side. Very mobile in the offense too #RMAVAL pic.twitter.com/9vXYA0SZk7— José C. Pérez (@jcperez_) January 8, 2022
Real Madrid couldn't create great chances during the first half-hour, especially since they couldn’t connect with Vinicius easily. Towards the end of the half, however, Mendy shifted more towards the wing and gave Vinicius more room to cut inside, while the mobility of Asensio and Modrić on the right helped the attack flow better too. Ultimately, Real scored when Casemiro stole the ball and was fouled in the box, leading to a penalty kick scored by Benzema.
Valencia broke down entirely during the second half. Their defensive block lost compactness while Vinicius and Asensio continued to find openings behind their defensive line. Vinicius' determination led to a wondergoal early in the second half, after cutting through the Valencia defense and combining with Benzema. Valencia couldn't come back from that.
A few minutes later, a good Asensio run led to a shot stopped by Cillessen, with Vinicius picking up the rebound for his second goal of the night. Valencia’s substitutions couldn't change the game state at this point. Towards the end of the game, Benzema got another goal after receiving a good cutback from Mendy and making a tight turn inside the box.
All in all, this was a top performance from Real's entire front three, who played really well off each other and overcame the Valencian wall. Stay tuned for the player ratings, podcast, and more!