May 11th, 2014 was the last time Real Madrid were beaten by Celta Vigo, and that unbeaten run reached 17 matches after a 1 - 4 win at Balaídos on Saturday night.
In a thrilling game, Real Madrid both scored and conceded a penalty in an away game for the first time since January 24th, 2015 (against Córdoba). Karim Benzema, Luka Modrić, Vinícius Júnior and Fede Valverde were all on the scoresheet as Iago Aspas converted from 12 yards for Celta.
Here are three stats which help us to understand the game:
9: Recoveries by Aurelién Tchouaméni
It would be fair to say that all eyes were on the French midfielder after Casemiro’s decade as Real Madrid’s holding midfielder came to an end on Friday evening. Tchouaméni couldn’t have done more to impress.
Whereas he was isolated and imprecise in Almería, in Vigo he was assured and sure-footed. He topped the rankings for clearances (four), interceptions (three) and recoveries (nine) in a defensive display that even his Brazilian predecessor would have been proud of.
On the ball he was strong too. Three key passes, plus five passes into the final third, demonstrated that he has plenty in his locker. In MARCA, Carlos Carpio put it well as he said “Tchouaméni showed that he isn’t just an off switch for the opposition, but he can turn the light on for his own team.”
It’s early days for Tchouaméni, but having been unconvincing last weekend in the south, he proved his quality in the north. Performances like this one, living up to the occasion when under pressure, is what makes some players stand out at Real Madrid.
2.28 xG: Karim Benzema’s xG without yet scoring from open play in LaLiga
Before we delve into this stat, it’s important to underline that Karim Benzema has scored two goals in three games already in 2022/23. This is not a crisis or poor form. But nonetheless, this is a concerning trend in Benzema’s performances against Almería and Celta Vigo.
He has now racked up 2.28 xG from open play chances without converting in the league. His one LaLiga goal came from the penalty spot, and he has missed several chances that a peak Benzema would surely have converted.
Such underperformance of xG is unheard of from Benzema in recent years. That’s a worry when Real Madrid’s only other recognized senior centre-forward is Mariano Díaz, who seems to be almost as unwanted as Frenkie de Jong at Camp Nou.
Alongside Benzema’s penalty, Real Madrid have already racked up five other different goal-scorers in two games. That’s a positive which is helping to make up for the chances which Benzema is not converting and which is easing the pressure on the striker significantly.
54.6%: Percentage of Luka Modrić’s goals for Real Madrid from outside the box
This game will long be remembered as the one where Luka Modrić was given a standing ovation by the rival home fans in Vigo, but the cherry on the cake was his magnificent goal. The Croatian sent a curling effort in grazing the post while under pressure from 20 yards out with incredible precision.
He may be 36 years old, but Modrić continues to grow in quality. With 18 of his 33 goals for the club coming from long range, it shows his unrivalled technique. It’s a role that has not been fulfilled at Real Madrid for some time, with none of Modrić, Kroos or Casemiro being particularly potent in front of goal.
With Benzema not quite up and running and with goals needed from elsewhere, this kind of contribution could be crucial this season. Modrić continues to step up when needed and act not only as a leader of this increasingly young team, but also by leading by example.