The season has barely started, but things don’t slow down for Real Madrid. After a great start last week in Vigo, the week continued among continuous transfer rumors. The end of the transfer window is approaching and it is to be expected from the press to come up with stories (mostly made up) until then, it seems that to them the need to sell trumps their duty to inform. This week the main names were Neymar, who depending on the day seems to have a different destination, and Keylor Navas, though Zidane was prompt to deny any talks of the goalkeeper asking for a trade.
Saturday evening was the debut at home at the Santiago Bernabéu against Valladolid, a match than on paper could seem very accessible for the Blancos but in reality, ended up being the first stumbling block for the team this season. Zidane was forced to make some changes to the line-up due to the one match suspension received by Luka Madrid the previous match for his red card, being Isco the chosen one to replace the Croatian. Carvajal was also given the starting position instead of Odriozola, after missing the league debut against Celta due to yellow card accumulation the previous season. The big surprise was to see James Rodriguez on the starting eleven, a player that until now had not been utilized by Zidane and was rumored to be on the trading block, replacing Vinicius Jr.
The match started with Real taking full control of the pace of the game. Having the ball the majority of the time and attacking constantly the Valladolid goal. It seemed the goals would soon come, with James enjoying some great scoring opportunities, as well as Gareth Bale, but the ball would pass inches from the goal defended by Masip. Villarreal was happy to stay back and defend with the whole team, trying to catch Madrid on the counter, but some solid defended on Madrid’s part prevented them from creating any serious danger. Surprisingly, half time arrived with a scoreless scoreboard, Valladolid happy to avoid conceding and Madrid frustrated with the wasted opportunities.
The second half saw the whites slow down their pace a bit, not being as dangerous or solid as in the first half. James had to be replaced early on the second half due to muscular fatigue (normal being his first match in weeks) and Vinicius took his place on the pitch. Since then Madrid seemed to have run out of gas and even though they kept controlling the match, it was without creating the same danger as before. Isco was replaced to bring in more firepower with Jovic, but seems were not clicking for Real and Valladolid was starting to have more opportunities.
When it seemed that the match would end with ceros on the board, Karim Benzema was able to put one pass Masip with a great low shot. At that moment, with 8 minutes left on the clock, it appeared Madrid would take the three points home, but a sloppy play 7 minutes later would see Valladolid find an equalizer. Kroos would lose a ball on midfield, that Valladolid would recover and put a ball behind the Madrid defense that Sergi Guardiola would not waste. After having Carvajal carelessly leave his position to venture in the middle, the Valladolid forward found himself alone with a clear path to goal. Courtois came out as fast as he could for the one on one but would not be able to prevent the ball from going in.
Real saw the three points slipping from their fingers as there was barely any time left. If the first match of the league had brought new hope to all the madridistas, this result brought back every doubt from last season. A team that struggled to capitalized when given the chance and giving away points due to a sloppy play at the end, bad positioning on defense and a lack of intensity when losing a ball. One play was enough to erase everything that had been done during the rest of the match.
Nothing was won with the first win in Vigo, and the season is not over with this draw at home. The season has just started and there are glimpses of a team that can fight for everything as long as some mistakes are corrected. Zidane will have to come up with some solutions as it seems both our right full backs are not yet in full form and a way to materialize on the chances created. The league will return next Sunday at 21:00 local time, as we visit another tough pitch and rival. Villarreal always being a difficult opponent to face at home.
The Champions league draw will also occur this upcoming Thursday, where we will know our opponents in the group stage, and this will be the last week of the transfer market. After this draw, the rumors of new signings will intensify until next Monday when the squad will be finally closed.