Real Madrid continued their 100 percent start to the new season as they defeated Espanyol 3-1 at the RCDE Stadium on Sunday night.
Vinicius Junior put the defending champions of Spain in front just 12 minutes into the game, but Espanyol fought their way back into the contest and equalised close to half-time through Joselu.
For most of the second half, Real Madrid pushed hard in search of a goal, but were unable to find a way through until the 88th minute when star man Karim Benzema stepped up and made it 2-1 to all but secure the victory for his side.
Deep into stoppage time, the veteran French international scored another goal to make it 3-1 and ensure that Los Blancos walked away with all three points.
The result sees Real Madrid climb back to the top of the La Liga standings, ahead of Real Betis, who are the only other team to win three in three, on goal difference.
Speaking after the match in his press conference, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti lamented over the lack of intensity from his team after the first goal was scored, which allowed Espanyol a way back.
“We had a very good start. We controlled the game well and struck early. We then dropped our intensity a bit, we weren’t effective up front and it became more difficult after they equalised because there were a lot of stoppages,” he said.
But the substitutions which saw Ancelotti introduce the likes of Eduardo Camavinga and Rodrygo Goes helped Real Madrid turn things around in the latter stages.
“The game became end to end and that suited us. Camavinga was already instrumental last season. When the game is stretched his energy gives us a boost, just like that of Rodrygo, Valverde or Vinicius,” he said.
“The reason we won the game was because we had more energy than our opponents on the pitch.”
Explaining his decision to not bring on Eden Hazard, Ancelotti said: “Hazard might have been an option, but I didn’t want to unbalance the team. We already had Rodrygo, Vinicius and Karim playing. Bringing on another forward could have been risky.
“He has my full backing and it’s not a problem if he doesn’t play, doesn’t get on the pitch or doesn’t warm up. He will get playing time. I’m not Hazard’s, Benzema’s, Mendy’s, Camavinga’s or Valverde’s coach. I’m Real Madrid’s coach.”
Further explaining his selection and substitution calls, he said: “Each game is a different story. If I’d started with Rodrygo and Camavinga we might not have had so much control in the first 25 minutes.
“If Kroos and Modric had come on instead, we might not have had that energy that we had. But choosing is like betting. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Today, the Real Madrid coach made a good bet.”
“If I wanted to protect a player I’d leave them at home. I made four changes and it could’ve been five. But I could’ve used any player and I decided to send on Dani for the last change because he’s got more experience.”
On his decision to start Antonio Rudiger at centre-back and move David Alaba to the left-back position, Ancelotti said: “I wanted to have more aerial presence and Rudiger perhaps has more than Alaba. But Alaba is incredible going forward.”
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia
For all the institutional and sporting catastrophes Valencia suffer from, they put up a resilient show against Real Madrid last month and held them to a draw in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.
Having fired Gennaro Gattuso less than 48 hours ago, Los Che will be under the command of an interim coach at Santiago Bernabeu in the hope of repeating their feat from Saudi Arabia.
After all, they are struggling this season with just 20 points in 18 league appearances.
Valencia may not be the top team it used to be a couple of seasons ago, but there is a fighting spirit to the squad that makes them special.
As Real Madrid looks to make amends for their dropped points against La Real, some important considerations cross the manager’s mind regarding the clash against Los Che.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.
1. More names at Ancelotti’s disposal
Real Madrid’s long injury list has been a thorn in Carlo Ancelotti’s feet for a long time now. While the manager has had close to five players unavailable through fitness concerns, two names were considered irreplaceable.
Daniel Carvajal is the first on that list. The Spanish International’s presence gave the club hope after Lucas Vazquez’s injury last month, but almost as if planned, the 30-year-old immediately suffered a blow in training and was forced to sit out.
For four games, Ancelotti was thus forced to field Nacho Fernandez as his right-back. The centre-back did a good job at covering out of position, however, will be pushed back to the bench on Thursday as Los Blancos celebrate the return of Carvajal.
The defender is not the only one making his way back, as Aurelien Tchouameni also received the medical all-clear earlier this week.
The French pivot hobbled off an hour into Real Madrid’s league clash against Villarreal in the first week of January and has been sidelined for close to a month.
His absence pushed his coach to try numerous permutations in midfield, but it was finally Eduardo Camavinga who stamped his authority on the position.
With Tchouameni back roaring, his place in the starting lineup seems to be written in stone. One can expect the Frenchman to be deployed alongside Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos for his return to action on Thursday.
2. Concern shifts from right to left-back
The Merengues will finally have a natural right-back available to play against Valencia midweek. However, that does not signal the end of the Italian tactician’s trouble-riddles period.
Just when one full-back position returned to a state of normalcy, Real Madrid now have a crisis at left-back.
Ferland Mendy picked up a thigh injury earlier this week and will miss the team’s next two months of action at least. To say that this is a big blow to the club’s plans would be an understatement, for Mendy was the only natural left-back available in the squad.
David Alaba would appear to be the best-placed alternative, but the Austrian is ruled out through injury himself. Placed at a lack of options, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference earlier today that Eduardo Camavinga would play there against Valencia.
The youngster has played in the defensive position earlier but will face the heat going up against Jose Luis Gaya at Santiago Bernabeu.
Given that Valencia’s right flank put up a memorable display when the two teams met last month, one can be certain that Camavinga’s performance can make or break Real Madrid’s night.
3. No margin for error
Less than halfway through the league season, Los Blancos already find themselves five points behind Barcelona. The wide gap is not a consequence of the defending champions’ poor form but the sheer consistency of Xavi Hernandez’s men, who cannot stop winning.
Having won the Supercopa de Espana last month, the Catalans are currently riding high on confidence. With their season heading from strength to strength, Real Madrid must hold on and wait for the right opportunity to topple the tables.
The Galacticos‘ draw against Real Sociedad added two points to the gap between the top two sides last week. At this stage, Ancelotti’s men cannot afford any further slip-ups for a larger gap would be too much for the men in white to compensate.
Every game henceforth will be a final for Real Madrid in La Liga. Three points are the bare minimum the club can walk away with from any fixture, and that mission will start from their game against Valencia.