Drawing from two draws
Madrid have now played two home games and dropped four points. The first of those draws, 2-2, came after a good performance from Valencia; the second, a 1-1, through Levante’s good defensive organisation and a string of fine saves from their keeper, Raúl. In both games Madrid have been neither good nor bad, yet two holes have been exposed in the squad; although an improvement on last year’s, it is lacking in central defence and the centre forward position, two key areas. Pepe’s recent departure and Ramos’s absence against Valencia showed, while Benzema’s injury against Levante demonstrated how much Morata is missed.
No Cristiano, no Modric
However, this wasn’t the only issue. Cristiano’s absence, and the goals and motivation his relentless ambition brings, meant it was no time to switch off. Others were rested, but those areas didn’t draw attention. Maybe they missed Ceballos in Modric’s position, but that’s for another day. This is not a criticism of rotations - the benefits of that approach could be seen last season. It’s just that with no Pepe or Morata the top and bottom of the pitch could be found wanting. After Benzema limped off against Levante it also became apparent that Borja Mayoral hadn’t been called upon. Which begs the question: Why is he there?
The other big news of the day was on the left flank with Theo and Marcelo, a pairing which didn’t quite work. In general, Madrid pressed down that side but there was a sense of frailty in the first half and a degree of misfortune in the second, when Raúl came into his own to shine. Moreover, the dropped points were compounded by Marcelo, who was dismissed after perplexingly kicking out at Lerma. The referee, who turned down Theo’s penalty shout, did see the Brazilian’s act and pulled out his card immediately (however, criticising referees will get us nowhere). Such a decision could now result in a four-game ban, which could be reduced to two at best. Fuel added to the fire.