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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 2 - 3 Villarreal

The only good thing to come out of this game was rest to key players before the Chelsea game

Real Madrid CF v Villarreal CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid 2 - 3 Villarreal (Torres OG, Vinicius; Chukwueze x2, Morales). Here’s our quick reaction at the final whistle. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game quotes, post-game podcast, stats breakdown, and more.

A tale of two defense-less teams ends in a win for the Yellow Submarine.

That’s how this game will be remembered anyway, by anyone who chooses to remember. With La Liga long gone for Real Madrid (and a Champions League spot very much alive for a desperate Villarreal side), Carlo Ancelotti chose to rotate again. Six of the starters at Camp Nou — Eduardo Camavinga, Eder Militao, Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Fede Valverde — were omitted from the starting XI to catch their breath; while Karim Benzema was taken off as early as the 59th minute. Carlo Ancelotti clearly had the upcoming Chelsea game in mind while juggling this one.

We did see a continuation of the Asensio - Rodrygo - Benzema - Vinicius quarter which put Real Valladolid into a blender. That provided for some really fun offense. Asensio and Rodrygo were interchangeable as a RCM / RM duo, and provided Real Madrid with a lot of good outlets in transition which gave Villarreal all kinds of defensive trouble.

It was a double-edged sword. On one hand, the team created enough chances to win this game while scoring four goals in the process. On the other hand, it had its defensive perils — as was clear by the amount of great chances Villarreal had despite not defending well. Asensio did track well when he was on the field, but was often in the opponent’s half, leaving a lot on Aurelien Tchouameni and Dani Ceballos in midfield. But neither of those two were positioned well enough defensively, nor did they track runners as well as they normally do, and to make matters worse, there was a lot of space between the center-backs, as well as the half-space between Nacho and Alaba.

Some of the defensive issues can be seen on Villarreal’s equalizer in the first half:

The game was a rotating, back-and-forth melee of pick-up style defending and poor finishing, and Villarreal come out on top. Key misses from Rodrygo, Asensio, and Vinicius (Vinicius and Asensio, who did otherwise have fine games, to be sure) provided Quique Setien’s men with enough lifelines to hang around long enough for Samu to score a ridiculous game-winner:

We’ll break this down in much more detail in the coming hours, both in written and podcast form.

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