The weekly summary
by Jacob E. Cardenas
A much needed win was the start of the LaLiga Santander at the very difficult arena at the Balaidos. Truly this was a sort of surprise for many, and therefore there is plenty to discuss.
For starters, the starting line-up. A more renewed and perhaps younger team was expected, nevertheless, this was far from the truth. Zinedine Zidane came through with his usual 4-3-3, with the Casemiro, Modric, and Kroos in the midfield. No changes in the defensive line, except for Carvajal still being banned. Odriozola took the spot this time. And the attack composed by Gareth Bale, Benzema, and Vinicius Jr. Basically, this is the same 11 players who started last season, aside from Alvaro Odriozola and Courtois. The chosen line-up for Zidane last season is what we have in essence.
The commencement had a feeling of wonder since we can all say that last season was a full of ups and downs. These first minutes brought uncertainty, more so at the center of the field with the three mentioed above. However, this team showed a different face. The pre-season firendlies could’ve been, and should’ve been taken less serious and more relaxed. The attitude of the team against Celta de Vigo appeared more determined defensively, with all the white players displaying confidence, and taking advatage of goal opportunities. The evaluation turned out to be a positive one, with the 3 goals even feeling short to the performance.
One may wonder about this drastic change. The shift is a total different angle to what was both seen and expected previously, not only the pre-season games but the year altogether. Just less than one week ago, the analysis was a lacking one, with much work needed, especially in the fourth quarter of the field. Just a game apart to have an absolute different Madrid.
Now, this occasion was Celta de Vigo, and be noted that we are not taking anything away from them. The galicians could have tied or win at any given time. Celta even finished the first half leading with a 1-0. WIth plenty of chances, and needing to secure their own three points at home to kickstart the season, they put up a fight the entire 90 minutes.
Although Zizou’s team still had mistakes, and bumpy lapses of losing the ball or giving in to pressure, every single player quickly responded and brought back the good from former times, especially defensively.
At the defense, the highlight is easily Marcelo, who little by little is returning to be the dribbler and owner of the the left line. His performance wasn’t necessarily a man of the match one, however, despite some mistakes, it was a good afternoon/evenng for the brazilian international.On the other hand Odriozola was perhaps the worse player in the team. Though no doubt he is a long distance runner on the picth, early in the game he left much to be desired. As he tried to carry the ball, it wasn’t very long until he run out of ideas and poor gameplay unfolding. Fact is he hasn’t gotten enough experience yet, and for that we look forward to Carvajal’s return.Ramos and Varane played their usual. Solid line, always watchful and anticipating every ball which comes close. The rival did not draw close to Madrid’s goal anywhere close to them. Additionally, as stated above, regaining possession to bring the ball back into the midfielders and forwards came natural to this duo.
And more into the offense. Celta de Vigo saw an empowered version of Benzema. The frenchman played majestically. There is always criticism for him and his responsibility in supplying los blancos with goals, but this game faded it all away. The possesion of the ball was with perfet timing for a more accurate distribution. The midfield could check the ball and triangle their way into the 18. Crosses came through, though not always great, yet Karim Benzema hit it down and toward the net almost every one. The first goal came in just 12 minutes, on a magical demonstration of quality by Gareth Bale to take on the light blue defender on a double fint and cross it into the box and find Benzema.
As for Bale, if he stays, then he’d better stay to play. The welshman is one of the most valuable assets the Bernabeu currently has. No player in the entire league can pull off the things Bale is capable. This was confirmed against once again against Celta de Vigo. He may be not as connected to the team yet, or with the coach, but one of the most important things he needed to do he actually did, namely, a change of attitude. This version of Gareth Bale was running every ball, looking for ball reception from the rest of the teammates, creating associations, and basically pulling the cart alongside the others and in the same direction. Not long ago there were rumors of him wanting to leave to China. However, he rapidly responded how much he actually didn’t. Once again, the level of involvement and commitment was just refreshing.Lastly Vinicius. There is a young player that can do it all but nothing at the same time. Celta de Vigo could not stop him, and yet there wasn’t much real damage done y him. Throughout the entire game the brazilian did the usual, run fast, dribbled with ease, accurate passing, and just excellent control of his body and the ball. The only problem was the last move. He lacked in the final decision. It mattered not what he did because the completion of the play just wasn’t there. Hopefully, the more he plays and works next to the more experienced players he will learn and mature.
It wouldn’t be until the 80th minute that a smooth combination ended with Marcelo passing the ball to Benzema almost at the penalty spot, who then turned to swing and place a gift of a ball, and in the same trajectory, to Lucas who scored the 3-0.
As for the midfielders during the game, Modric received a red card, after a VAR decision to punish him a second yellow. Up to this point his game has been the usual play of Luka, with outstanding vision of the game, distribution form one side to the other, and the security in his possession of the ball. It is good to see the old Modric back into his game more and more.Kroos gifted madridistas with a superb goal. Receiving from Marcelo on just outside the right corner of the 18, he opened to his right to fire a perfect trajectory into Ruben Blanco’s upper angle. One incredible piece of work in the 61 minute putting Madrid 2 goals ahead. Apart from the goal, no significant word for the german in his performance, but no low points either.Into Casemiro, the brazilian deserves more praise. Celta’s near misses and the goal weren’t his fault.
Lastly Thibaut Curtois. Some pre-season games he was pointed and blamed for goals the whites received, but not deserved. But for a first season game the belgian showed that he will once again make it hard to Zidane to decide between him and Navas. Two goals were saved at the line by Curtois. Aspas tried him several times and luckily he was up to the challenge. Celta’s goal came in fergie time, right before the final whistle, and on Odriozola’s area with a blasting ball under Ramos legs and surprising Thibaut.
A first test is never easy. Also Celta de Vigo isn’t one stronger teams in the league by any means. In fact, last season they could have gotten relegated if it wasn’t for Iago Aspas goals. The win puts the azucenas 3 points ahead of the main rivals at Barcelona, and although much improvement is needed in areas such as constant possession, and a more engaged midfield, the road ahead is promising.Left to be desired was seeing players like James Rodriguez and watch what can be in store, if any. Even out of curiosity. Perhaps it was Modric’s red card. No one will ever know.In the end the score shows the positive outcome of Zinedine ZIdane’s work, and replaces fear of the big teams that will come into hopes for a rewarding season. And a soon recovery to Eden Hazard, Mendy, and especially Marco Asensio.