Real Madrid's five fatal errors against Legia Warsaw
From Zinedine Zidane's politically inclined personnel selection to trying a new system out and playing Fabio Coentrão...
Zidane and his political line-up
An hour before the match, Real Madrid announced their starting line-up and it was a surprising one: Zidane decided to start the BBC and Álvaro Morata, leaving only two midfielders in Toni Kroos and Mateo Kovacic to keep the side ticking over. It was a political and frivolous line-up that ended up costing Madrid. Morata has been pushing for a starting role on the basis of good performances and goals and Zidane rewarded him, but without dropping one of the BBC, a demonstration that the front three is untouchable.
There were so many players in attack that they ended up tripping over one another. Morata and Benzema displayed little movement and occupied the same area of the pitch. Benzema is a player more suited to link-up play and was the focal point in attack. The canterano hardly set foot in the opposition area until the Frenchman was removed.
Lack of intensity in defence
Zidane said: “We will try to improve in our play, for example keeping a clean sheet. We’ll try to do that tomorrow: play well and not concede. We always talk about the keeper and the defenders. Keeping clean sheets is a question of all the players contributing.”
That phrase was not from his pre-match press conference in Warsaw but from a month and a half ago, before the Villarreal game. Since then, Real have failed to keep a clean sheet in any match in all competitions.
Intensity is a word that Zidane uses often in his press conferences but over the last two months he has failed to address the side’s defensive problems. “It doesn’t worry me, we’re going to try to improve in these aspects,” he said after the Alavés match, just six days after beating Athletic 2-1 in the Bernabéu.
Coentrão and the “kamikaze substitution”
Zidane has tried everything at the back as injuries have taken their toll. On Wednesday he opted to play the Portuguese, who has just come back from injury and had played 32 minutes this season before the Legia match, in place of Danilo, who has played three times at left back already this season. Coentrão lacked match fitness and Zidane substituted him for Marco Asensio in a dangerous gamble. Real Madrid moved to a back three with the score at 2-2 and swiftly conceded the third.
With that change the team lost its shape. The initial 4-2-4 caused an imbalance during many phases of the game and the change for the last 15 minutes simply exacerbated the problem. The vulnerability of the back three was evident in Legia’s third goal, which almost handed the home side a famous victory. Zidane had Danilo and Álvaro Tejero on the bench but opted to stack the attacking positions and Real ended with five attack-minded players on the pitch.
Keylor not up to scratch
The Costa Rica keeper was far from at his best in the Polish Army Stadium and his insecurity transmitted to a makeshift back four. Navas conceded three goals from distance, two of which were unstoppable but he could have done much more to prevent Miroslav Radovic’s effort from hitting the back of the net. Since returning from injury against Dortmund the keeper has not been as reliable as he was last season. He conceded twice against the Bundesliga side, the first coming when he punched a ball out from a free kick that he could have held. So far this season Navas has conceded 13 times with Real Madrid and Costa Rica in eight games, his worst run of form since he was at Albacete in 2011. Real are suffering in the absence of the keeper who won so many deserved plaudits last season.