Real Madrid visited Mestalla without Eden Hazard and Casemiro who had been tested positive for COVID-19. The absence of Hazard was never a headache for the Los Blancos because he hardly featured in a white shirt since he was signed, but a match without Casemiro and that also in Mestalla would always be a tough task. Casemiro is someone who plays a balancing act between the defence and midfield – without the Brazilian, the shakiness of Real Madrid is exposed.

No matches are less important in such an unpredictable season and winning at Mestalla means a lot. A lot of grit and compactness is needed out there. In the first 25 minutes, the Los Blancos looked good and gave the impression of getting better.

Karim Benzema had Jaume Domenech on the back foot with a thumping 23rd-minute strike – but Lucas Vazquez’s handball handed Valencia an opportunity to equalize.

Yet the hosts did so the hard way. After Soler saw his penalty saved and hit the post on the rebound, Musah slammed home, only for it to be disallowed after VAR spotted the 17-year-old had encroached into the area.

Referee Jesus Gil Manzano ordered the penalty to be re-taken and, although Thibaut Courtois again guessed the right way, Soler beat Madrid’s goalkeeper at the second time of asking.

More drama followed as Valencia took the lead before half-time – Varane inadvertently looping Maxi Gomez’s cross over Courtois, who failed to stop the ball from crossing the line.

However, it was only given after a long VAR check, which also deemed Denis Cheryshev not to have fouled Marco Asensio in the build-up.

Courtois made a fantastic save straight after the restart, tipping Lee Kang-In’s strike onto the upright, but he was soon picking the ball out of his net again.

Marcelo scythed down Gomez, and Soler stepped up to convert into the bottom-right corner.

A remarkable hat-trick was achieved and Real were left stunned.

With Casemiro absent, Fede Valverde and Luka Modric were looking to cut off the passing lanes of Valencia. It actually allowed the three players up front- Benzema, Vinicius Junior, and Isco enough fluidity, and for quite a while, during the transitions, the Real backline were decent enough to outweigh the attack of Valencia.

Then the sloppy show started.

The defence started to crumble and committed mistakes after mistakes.

Valencia netted four goals – 3 from penalties and one own goal by Raphael Varane.

It is clear that Marcelo is no longer a force to be reckoned with. Zidane has kept the faith in him, but until now, in this season, he has never been able to showcase his abilities on the left flank. It is not clear what he does on the field – he leaves acres of spaces for the opponents to exploit and then commits blunders to drown his own team. Moreover, he never seems a fit guy to weather the storm.

Meanwhile, at right-back, injury has left Madrid without Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Odriozola, and Nacho, with Lucas Vazquez forced to play out of position there. Vazquez showed his grit in the last couple of matches, but he is naturally not a player to play in that position and at Mestalla, his fragility was evident.

Varane is becoming inconsistent and Mendy is not sure where he would start – in the right or left-back position.

After the match, Vazquez said, “As a team, we came into the game on the back of several pretty good performances, in which we performed to our best, and tonight’s was a tough game. We just weren’t at it, we’ll have to analyze it, learn from it, and improve. We’ve been using the same system of rotations for the last five years with the coach, he does what’s in the team’s best interests and we try to be in the best possible shape to perform well.”

Zidane continues to rotate players but he is using the same system which has not been fruitful enough.

In the next matches, Real Madrid might shine, but that would not hide the fact that this team requires new and right signings to become the best again!