Real Madrid were flying and lavishing praises were showered on them, but here comes a night when nothing went right for the Los Blancos as they fired blank against a resolute Villarreal of Unai Emery. Real Madrid returned to earth after last night.

After having their way in midweek versus Mallorca, it was the complete opposite for Carlo Ancelotti’s men against the Yellow Submarine, who were resolute, organized and compact in turning away Los Blancos.

Ancelotti showed a wrinkle to his starting XI, as Fede Valverde slotted in at right-back and Nacho was at left-back. Luka Modric and Casemiro returned to midfield, along with Marco Asensio, and Rodrygo in the attack.

The first scoring chance went the way of Villarreal, with Arnaut Danjuma hammering a shot that forced Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois into a stretch save.

There was some poking and prodding from Madrid, but nothing that gave Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli any trouble. If anything, Villarreal remained the better side and Dajuma again had a crack a goal, only to see his effort slice wide.

Ancelotti did not hesitate to make a change during the break, bringing on Eduardo Camavinga for Rodrygo and the home side were immediately better and came close on an Eder Militao header off an Asensio freekick.

Villarreal weren’t going away either and it was all there for Paco Alcacer to give his side the lead, but couldn’t connect right in front of Courtois.

Later on, Eden Hazard was brought on for Modric, as Madrid continued to push for a winner, followed by Isco for Asensio.

Isco nearly made an immediate impact with a header that was blocked by Rulli, resulting in a mad scramble in front of the goal and ultimately a clearance.

Madrid committed everyone forward in the final minutes in search of the decisive goal, but Villarreal were unbreakable, leaving Los Blancos to rue two points lost at home.

“It wasn’t our best night, we didn’t play our best game this season,” Ancelotti explained in his press conference.

“Villarreal gave our goalkeeper a lot to do and we had a lot of difficulty.”

“We kept going.”

Ancelotti has been explaining several decisions. His defensive concerns are born far from his own area and close to that belonging to the opponent. He wants his team to press high up the pitch, provoking mistakes in the other team’s penalty area, however, you need the players to do that.

The deployment of Valverde and Camavinga against Real Mallorca and Casemiro and Modric against Villarreal was strange. It’s impossible to pretend that the latter can provide the same pressure that the former can.

Luka Modric and Casemiro didn’t have their best of games, yet Ancelotti refused to accept they were less fresh than others players around them.

“It was noticeable due to the lack of pressure and they had to cover a lot of the pitch, but it wasn’t tiredness,” he continued.

“Playing with Vinicius, Hazard, Asensio, Isco and Karim, the two midfielders have to work a lot.”

Valverde was selected at right-back in what was the biggest surprise of the night, yet Ancelotti defended his choice.

“I liked it because he can play anywhere,” he declared.

“For me, he isn’t a right-back but I needed a lot of forward movement and I tried to put Asensio between the lines.”

“We looked for one against one situation, we put in crosses but they have a lot of height, we had difficulty in the pressure and they handled the ball very well.”

Yeremy Pino gave Nacho a torrid night and anyone watching will have been glued to the battle on the right side. Yeremy went wide whenever he wanted, he created chances at will and forced Los Blancos to unbalance themselves by putting a second defender to cover him.

The full-back debate at Real Madrid is becoming to be a real worry for Ancelotti. The Italian would be fair to hold some reservations about Miguel’s ability to start in high-intensity matches, but should that doubt be enough to leave the whole team unbalanced?

After the Mestalla it has become clear that Lucas Vazquez will have a difficult time playing at right-back again, but even though Nacho isn’t at his best there, playing Valverde in that position saw the team lose every bit of solidity in the middle. Miguel may have done a better job keeping Yeremy quiet as well.

Courtois did his thing, which is to be the best goalkeeper on the planet at this moment. He made a great save from Danjuma with his foot, and he then cleared everything else which came his way. The best news for Madrid is that even if they play poorly, they have a goalkeeper who is virtually an insurance policy behind them.


Unai Emery is a great coach and one of the best on the training pitch on a day-to-day basis. Villarreal played well at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu and they negated Los Blancos’ high-press with extreme ease. It was only the final ball that was missing.

Facebook Comments