Three talking points from Real Madrid 3-1 Espanyol
Real Madrid made easy work of Diego Martinez’s Espanyol earlier today and put an end to their three-game winless streak by securing a 3-1 victory at the Bernabeu. The team’s return to form could not come at a better time given that they next face Liverpool and Barcelona.
Vinicius Jr, Eder Militao and Marco Asensio were all on the scoresheet to help their team register the dominant scoreline. Yet, the game was not without its own twists and turns.
The hosts had 70% of the possession on the day, taking 22 shots and creating two big chances. The scoreline is kind on Espanyol, for Real Madrid would have buried at least two more chances on another day.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid 3-1 Espanyol.
1. The initial hiccup
Real Madrid coasted through most of the game at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday. Once the men in white found the equaliser, there was no stopping their pressure and persistent attacks.
However, the game did not start as smoothly as Carlo Ancelotti would have liked. The first ten minutes of the game saw Espanyol mount severe pressure on the Merengues, winning even half-challenges and passing through the hosts’ midfield.
As early as the second minute of the game, Diego Martinez’s men created their first chance of the game when Marin Braithwaite got behind the Madrid defence. His missed opportunity was followed by a period of intense pressure by Espanyol that resulted in the opening goal.
Aurelien Tchouameni lost a half-challenge on the left side of the field and the ball was squared to Ruben Sanchez. The Spaniard made easy work of a wrong-footed Eduardo Camavinga and delivered an inch-perfect cross to Joselu who delivered a glorious finish.
Espanyol’s dream start continued for another five minutes, at the end of which Vinicius Costa had a great chance to double the visitors’ lead. That, however, signalled the end of their attacking play in the game.
The 70 minutes that followed were all Real Madrid. The Merengues asserted their dominance through well-constructed passing sequences and attacks down the flank to which Diego Martinez had no answers.
As the game progressed, Espanyol’s diminishing confidence grew more evident. The Catalans slowly began resorting to hapless clearances over the confident build-up play that they exhibited early on in the game. Mentally broken, they no longer posed a threat to the defending champions.
2. Vicious Vinicius
The storyline of Vinicius Jr stepping up with a moment of magic to turn the tide is not unheard of. In fact, it has been a recurring theme in so many of Real Madrid’s games this season.
Saturday’s clash was no different. After Espanyol had silenced the Santiago Bernabeu, there was a blanket of worry cast over the stadium over Real Madrid’s recent lack of goals. After all, the team had scored just one goal in their last three games and was missing its best striker.
When the side needed someone to step up and claim responsibility, it was again Vinicius who came to the rescue. The Brazilian international was one of the sole creators in the final third on the day as he constantly dribbled his way past the Catalan defence.
The equaliser Vinicius scored was a thing of beauty. Receiving the ball on the far left, he dribbled centrally past three defenders, cut back and unleashed a vicious shot that soared into the far corner. It was a work of precision art at its best.
In 89 minutes on the field, the Brazilian took six shots, created four chances, completed 92% of his attempted passes and completed three dribbles. His riveting display on the left wing kept the Espanyol defenders on their toes and bound in their own box and overshadowed Rodrygo and Valverde’s relatively quiet performances.
3. Closer than it appears
Only six points separate Barcelona and Real Madrid after Los Blancos’ win on matchday 25. The Blaugrana may have a game in hand, but one must remember that Xavi’s men play Athletic Club away at San Mames on Sunday night.
The league leaders have been far from their free-flowing best in recent games and head to the Basque nation without Ousmane Dembele and Pedri. In the event of an Athletic Club win, Real Madrid will have the chance to reduce the deficit to three points next weekend in El Clasico.
Even if Barcelona restore their nine-point lead on Sunday, a Real Madrid triumph at Spotify Camp Nou next weekend would reduce the deficit to six. That figure would not appear unscaleable by any means.
All hope is not lost for Real Madrid in La Liga. Yet, it is clear that a lot will ride on the end result of El Clasico next weekend.
Three talking points from Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | La Liga
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid fell to a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona on their first trip to Spotify Camp Nou after more than a year.
The Catalans had not won against the Merengues at home since 2018 ahead of the game but a clutch goal from Franck Kessie helped them turn around the record.
Vinicius Jr opened the scoring early in the game by forcing an error and own goal from Ronald Araujo. The hosts levelled the score in the 45th minute through Sergi Roberto, before the winner arrived in stoppage time.
The game was not without its share of controversy as Real Madrid had a goal disallowed for offside that Ancelotti felt was unfair. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from the fourth Clasico of the season.
1. Quality of full-backs
Real Madrid have etched their names into history as one of the most deadly counter-attacking teams in world football. Their pacey transitions and shifts of play have traditionally progressed through the wing with unreal speed to catch the opponent off-guard even in a momentary lapse in concentration.
Needless to say, the full-backs have always worked in tandem with the team’s wingers to make such speedy counters possible. The glaring problem at Real Madrid currently is that their full-backs do not provide half as much as they need to.
Los Blancos’ counterattack now seemingly consists of only Vinicius Jr on the left wing making a quick transition to find Karim Benzema. With just one outlet, it is difficult for the men in white to be effective.
The story at Spotify Camp Nou was very similar. Dani Carvajal started as the right-back and had a good showing defensively. Yet, he was virtually absent in the final third and left Real Madrid’s right-wing lifeless. In ninety minutes, he managed no crosses or long balls and had just one key pass.
The story at left-back was equally, if not more abysmal. Nacho Fernandez was the candidate deployed in the position and could also not manage a single cross, long ball or key pass on the night. He was eventually substituted for Ferland Mendy but the Frenchman could not do much either.
The difference in the quality of full-backs between Barcelona and Ancelotti’s side is gaping. The Catalans blazed through the wings on the night with Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde who constantly got forward in attack to stretch the men in white. In response, Real Madrid had nothing.
2. A dead right-wing and lack of intensity
It is imperative for any top football team to have the resources to attack both wings, for it is the constant switching of play that triggers errors from the opposition. For a club like Real Madrid to not have such resources is criminal.
The game against Barcelona was completely predictable given that the Merengues’ right wing was nonexistent. Any attack, almost surely, had to come down Vinicius’ wing and this made Barcelona’s defensive work easier.
Dani Carvajal was barely involved in the final third against the Catalans. That, coupled with Federico Valverde’s atrocious showing as the right-winger removed one side of the field from Real Madrid’s game.
Valverde made just 27 passes in 76 minutes and failed to make a single cross on the night. Further, he recorded just one key pass and one accurate long ball in El Clasico.
When Marco Asensio came on for Los Blancos, the equation completely turned around. The winger came on as a direct replacement for Valverde and happened to score the disallowed goal that was millimetres from giving Real Madrid three points.
More importantly, the move for the aforementioned goal was completely down the right flank, a testament to the alarming situation.
3. Goodbye La Liga?
When the clock at Spotify Camp Nou struck 81 minutes, the race for La Liga seemed to be on. Real Madrid had just scored a possible winner and had cut short their deficit with Barcelona to just six points.
Ten minutes later, the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of the hosts. Their lead atop the league standings was suddenly twelve points with just 12 games to go.
History is witness that counting out Real Madrid does not fare well. However, it is difficult to surpass the supposition that the 12-point gap is too wide to bridge.
Los Blancos will continue to fight in the league, but Ancelotti will likely preserve his weapons for the UEFA Champions League where they face a bigger chance at glory.