Asensio and Marcelino reign in the Bernabéu
Valencia’s reconstruction is already a reality. With very few changes, Marcelino has created a completely different team, united in a common purpose and with a magnificent sense of direction in their play. Real Madrid drew 2-2 against this Valencia side courtesy of two sensational goals from Marco Asensio, a footballer who keeps getting better by the day. For his first, he picked up a loose ball in the Valencia midfield and struck towards goal, slotting the ball into the corner of the net with the smoothness of a Rolls Royce door closing. His second was a free kick that went through the wall and left Neto, whose only error of the night was to assume it was coming over the top, rooted to the spot.
But against Marcelino’s new Valencia, Asensio was not enough. Zinedine Zidane has a splendid squad but two positions are weaker than they were, because Pepe and Álvaro Morata have departed. Given the amount of injuries that Raphael Varane suffers and that we do not yet know what Jesús Vallejo will become, what happened in the Bernabéu on Sunday night can happen again. Zidane resolved his defensive issues by putting Casemiro in central defence and Toni Kroos in the Brazilian’s habitual position; for Valencia’s first goal Casemiro was out of position and for the visitors’ second Kroos did not close down Geoffrey Kondogbia quickly enough. Automatisms are important in football. Zidane could have used a Castilla central defender, such as Manu Hernández, but I think he opted for the other route to avoid having to choose between Asensio and Gareth Bale.
The shape of the side did not help Isco, who found himself without a defined role. And it did not help Bale, because the Bernabéu is becoming increasingly unconvinced by the Welshman’s untouchable status. The road runner is dashing headlong into protest. He is an excellent player, but not so much that he should start under any circumstances. Karim Benzema was also booed by the fans, although less so, after carving out several good chances but failing to bury any of them. The eventual draw consolidated Valencia’s plan of attack for the season and dampened the sense of excitement at the Bernabéu, as well as removing Madrid from the Liga leadership. On the other side of the coin, it is becoming more and more evident that Asensio is on the fast track to greatness, if he is not already there, and that Zidane’s side will fight in every game until the final whistle. As always in these situations, Real gave it everything. As did Valencia.