Club football is back! Zidane opted for some rotational pieces in the starting XI ahead of the week from hell. Isco, Marcelo, Militao, and Asensio all featured for the Frenchman in a hybrid system. Thay hybrid system had a great deal of fluidity and freedom which was a joy to watch. Isco and Marcelo were constantly swapping positions, Asensio was drifting between the lines, and Modric sat deep dictating play in the quarter-back role. Zidane had the team constantly shifting from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 while on the ball, and then they would opt towards a 4-4-2 shape off the ball.
For Mendilibar, he had his Eibar team defending in a narrow 4-4-2 which gave Madrid time and space on the wings. Marcelo and Lucas could easily pick their head up and find whatever pass they like. Marcelo with time and space just played dimes. He had James-esque deliveries with that left foot. Zidane may have found a home for Marcelo to help make him relevant again with the hybrid LW-LM-CM position.
The first half was all Madrid. Eibar failed to muster any real opportunities thanks to the strong coverage on the wings. Meanwhile, Real Madrid scored three goals, only one of which counted courtesy of VAR. Benzema and Asensio each scored, but had goals ruled out after the fact due to an offsides. That wouldn’t stop the latter, who scored the opening goal after a threaded ball from Casemiro and a delicate outside the boot touch from the former Mallorca man:
Rather than adjusting to Zidane’s shape, Eibar looked even more deflated and tired in the second half. Marco Asensio produced his best performance of the season. Madrid’s #11 was playing with so much freedom and confidence — everything he tried seem to be coming off. Delicate back-heel touches around the box coupled with powerful shots outside of the box with his left foot. Around the hour mark, Zidane decided to coddle both Asensio and Modric ahead of the Liverpool game, replacing them with Kroos and Rodyrgo Goes.
Arguably the biggest change from the first 45 to the second, were the elements. The weather took a dramatic turn for the worst with a torrential down pour affecting some of the technical aspects of the game. Thibaut Courtois had a couple heart-in-mouth moments when the ball was played back to him on the slick surface. With the heavy rain lashing down, Zidane opted for some more fresh legs — subbing Vinicius JR and Sergio Arribas on the field in place of Marcelo and Isco.
The young substitutes would almost immediately get involved. Arribas, Vinicius, and Kroos all combined down the left before releasing Arribas into the box. The Canterano skidded a ball across goal which found Lucas Vazquez. The fullback was patient before feeding a final ball to Casemiro that was placed in the bottom corner with Kroos-like precision. But, for the third time in the same game, the goal would be disallowed due to a offside call.
The VAR call-backs would not deter Madrid. Vinicius JR and Arribas, again linked up down the left, with the Brazilian creating enough separation in a 1v1 moment down the flank to get a pin-point lofted cross off with his left foot to Karim Benzema who headed the goal home for his 18th in La Liga.
Zidane’s final substitution saw Mariano enter for Benzema in the final 10 minutes of the match. Madrid did well to see out the match and come away with a clean sheet. In all honesty, Eibar were not at their best and Madrid exploited all their weaknesses. Zidane’s men are starting to click into gear ahead of the big week and the victory will help with confidence. We will break this match down further on the post-game pod, with player ratings, tactical analysis, and post-game quotes.