There can be no options other than winning for Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane. That is the motto of the team as they bag full points against Celta Vigo today. The Los Blancos have been lacking the winning momentum for a while and lean-patch almost engulfed them, but thankfully, the whole unit is picking themselves up at the right time.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) March 20, 2021
Real Madrid have unbeaten in La Liga since the start of February, picking up five wins and two draws to move them up to third in the table, just two points behind Barcelona and six off Atletico at the top. This victory has helped them to leapfrog their arch-rivals – Barcelona in the second place and the point difference is just one while three with the leaders Atletico Madrid.
Zidane was forced to make one change from the side that beat Atalanta in the Champions League in midweek, as Sergio Ramos misses out due to injury. Casemiro came into the starting line-up.
📊 | Karim Benzema has contributed to 47% of Real Madrid goals in La Liga 20/21.
Talk about his importance to this Real Madrid side 🔥 pic.twitter.com/h4zb3J7tPC
— J. (@TotalKroos) March 20, 2021
Zidane shunned the idea of a three-man backline and shaped-up in a 4-3-1-2 formation, where Luka Modric was lying behind the two attackers – Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior. The midfield duty was entrusted to Fede Valverde, Casemiro, and Toni Kroos. Lucas Vazquez and Ferland Mendy were the wing-backs and Raphael Varane would be aided by Nacho Fernandez at the central defence.
Real started the game with more intent – fast passing and domination at the center of the park.
Within five minutes, Villar had to come out of his goal to try and clear a long ball over the top of the Celta defence, but he and his defenders got mixed up and Vinicius ended up sneaking into it first. Luckily, the angle was too tight for a shot, so he played it back to Benzema, who went for goal, but it was blocked.
Four minutes later Real Madrid won a corner which was half-cleared by Celta and Benzema attempted for a goal, but it was blocked by Mallo.
Karim Benzema has now scored in each of his last six games across all competitions for Real Madrid:
vs. Celta Vigo
The lad has been carrying the goal-scoring responsibility since CR7 left
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) March 20, 2021
Then the Los Blancos caught Celta on the break – Benzema laid the ball off to Vinicius, who sprinted forward and took on a couple of defenders, moved into the final third, but eventually got the ball stuck under his feet and the hosts breathed a sigh of relief.
The Los Blancos built from the back – but their defenders maintained a highline with Mendy and Vazquez higher which led Casemiro shield in front of Courtois and Varane guarding the right and Fernadez the left.
Vinicius stayed wider and played more as a traditional winger whose job was to provide the goods to the hit-man in the center and as the match progressed Kroos was seen taking more control as a center attacking midfielder – lying just behind the Real hit-man.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 20, 2021
Modric and Valverde pulled the strings from the midfield.
Real Madrid’s commanding display in the first 45 minutes was largely down to the control Modric and Kroos had in midfield. In Croatian’s case, his work on and off the ball was valuable. He joined the press to good effect at times.
The pressure put on by the visitors led to the first goal.
The switch of positions by Kroos, who then dribbled past a couple of Celta players, before finding Benzema -The hit-man then turned in style and curled the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
Benzema went towards the byline with the ball six minutes later and whipped a cross into the six-yard box, but Vinicius failed to react and the header went wide.
Karim Benzema is at it again for Real Madrid! 🔥
Toni Kroos really threaded the needle for that brilliant assist too 🎯 pic.twitter.com/BDclgbN00w
— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) March 20, 2021
Celta tried to build-up from the back but lost control on the edge of the own box.
Kroos nicked it off Tapia and then flicked it to Benzema, who fired it into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
The early pressure and some sloppiness from the hosts gave Real Madrid the upper-hand.
When he's not scoring, he's creating. 🔥
— LaLigaTV (@LaLigaTV) March 20, 2021
As brilliant as Kroos had been, though, he then gave away a silly free-kick in the 40th minute by grabbing Iago Aspas as the Galician was in full stride, with Denis Suarez placing the ball perfectly on the head of Santi Mina to score from the set-piece and to change the mood at half time.
After the break, the hosts started much better and Courtois’ weekly wonder save arrived on the hour mark as he got down to deny Aspas.
With 20 minutes to go, Zidane changed up his system by bringing off Kroos for Asensio to add more width, with the system becoming a more traditional 4-3-3.
🤍 HALA MADRID! 🤍 pic.twitter.com/7qHwwEVUTS
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) March 20, 2021
Celta pressed higher and Real looked a bit shaky, even though Real Madrid did have another excellent chance created by Benzema – the hit-man flayed the ball off Nestor Araujo and unloaded a shot, but Villar denied him his hat-trick.
Yet the final 10 minutes saw the home side throw everything they could at Courtois’ goal, including an 82nd minute Aspas freekick that struck the post thanks to the slightest of deflections from Casemiro in the Real Madrid wall.
Substitute Facundo Ferreyra had a double chance in the final minute of regular time but was blocked twice by Nacho and by the Duracell Bunny that is Casemiro.
In the stoppage time, Marco Asensio put the icing on the cake by scoring from a Benzema cross.
Benzema was the hero of the match once again and it was his 22nd goal of the season – 16 of them coming in the La Liga. This man is the most underrated strikers in world football right now and the time has come to give him his due credit. He is an absolute legend.