Real Madrid retained top spot in LaLiga as they beat off the leaders, Girona, at the Estadi Municipal de Montilivi. It was a comfortable 3-0 win which was marred by Nacho’s late red card for a terrible challenge after an efficient display across the park.
After a bright start for the home team, Joselu found space at the far post after an impressive Jude Bellingham outside-of-the-boot assist, with Aurelién Tchouameni then firing in a rocket and Bellingham making it three in the second half.
Here are three stats that help to explain and understand the game.
75%: Joselu’s shots in LaLiga this season which have been on target, the highest in the competition
Real Madrid’s offensive game was deadly again on Saturday, and in particular, Joselu. His right-footed effort opened the scoring on 17 minutes and was one of three attempts on goal, with two on target. That helped him to maintain his place in LaLiga as the competition’s most accurate shooter with a 75% accuracy rate.
He ranks 15th in LaLiga for total shots with 16 attempts, and has scored with 25% of those. He ranks eighth when those shots are placed in proportion to minutes, with 2.92 shots per 90 minutes, with only Rodrygo Goes ahead of him from the Real Madrid squad on 3.92 per 90.
In the Brazilian’s case, however, his accuracy is just 30%. That was not helped by his substitute appearance on Saturday. Dropped from the line-up with Vinícius Júnior regaining his place, Rodrygo replaced his compatriot on 68 minutes and recorded just one shot, which went wide of the target.
Just behind Joselu, and second for shot accuracy in LaLiga this season, is Jude Bellingham. The English midfielder had five shots, with two blocked and three on target, more or less in line with his 68.4% shot accuracy this season. That has helped him to sit on top of the scoring charts with six goals in seven games ahead of the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Álvaro Morata on five each.
2: LaLiga matches in a row where the opponents have recorded more passes than Real Madrid
With 498 passes in total at Montilivi, this was Real Madrid’s second-lowest tally of the season to date, only three more than the 2-1 win over Real Sociedad in the capital. That enabled Girona to surpass them with 563 total passes and only a marginally lower completion rate at 88.3% compared to Real Madrid’s 90.2%. In total, the possession breakdown reflected 45% for Real Madrid and 55% for Girona.
This followed the Las Palmas game in which Real Madrid won in terms of possession, but were again outpassed by their opponents. Las Palmas attempted 654 passes at the Bernabéu, completing 592, while Real Madrid only registered 570 attempts.
Combining back-to-back LaLiga games where the team have been outpassed is a stat which did not happen in 2022/23, and you’d have to go back to April 2022 when Barcelona and then Celta Vigo achieved the feat, with a 2-1 win in Vigo following a 4-0 thrashing in the Clásico.
It reflects a pragmatism to Ancelotti’s style which is allowing teams to play on their own terms, with Real Madrid willing to sit back and wait. It’s also indicative of the new approach with the changed midfield shape, no longer looking to boss the middle of the park in the same way and being content to allow opposition sides to retiain the ball in deep central areas if it avoid them looking to exploit the flanks.
0.81: Girona’s xG in the opening four minutes of play
Real Madrid were comfortable for most of this game, but it’s also important to recognise that it was not the case in the early stages. 51% of Girona’s total xG came inside the first four minutes of the game, with Girona going close through a Yangel Herrera header over the bar and a Viktor Tsigankov header against the left post.
While Los Blancos were able to keep a shut-out in Girona, this was only the fourth game this season in which they were able to avoid conceding in the opening 15 minutes. In four other fixtures (Almería, Getafe, Real Sociedad and Atlético Madrid), Real Madrid have conceded in the first 15 minutes and they remain yet to score in the first quarter of an hour in any LaLiga game.
It’s a worrying trend which points to defensive concentration being an issue, likely not helped by the increasing presence of rotations in the backline. In Catalonia, Ancelotti opted to field Eduardo Camavinga at left-back, despite having Fran García and Ferland Mendy available on the bench.
Before playing Las Palmas in midweek, coach Carlo Ancelotti was asked about this trend. “I think starting the game we need to have a different attitude because the early minutes have done us damage too many times,” he recognised. At Montilivi, his team were perhaps fortunate to escape suffering the same fate again.
What may also concern the Italian is that Girona recorded four shots from set pieces. Girona had four free-kicks, with three leading to shots, and one corner, which also led to a shot. It’s a concerning record again for Real Madrid.