Demoted Bale, Benzema line up for Real Madrid's second string
With all eyes on the visit of Bayern, Real Madrid served up a fairly listless display against Leganés, a side I like very much, by the way. Los Pepineros deserved to take something from the game yesterday. They offered more going forward than a second-string Real team which, it bears repeating, is nothing like as good as last year's. All season long, Zinedine Zidane's 'plan B' has missed the likes of Danilo, Pepe, James and Álvaro Morata. And, since their move up the pecking order at the expense of the 'bbC', Lucas Vázquez and Marco Asensio, too. Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale's slip in status meant they were called on against Leganés, meanwhile. Benzema was taken off on the hour mark, though, which suggests he could play on Tuesday, given that Isco is out after returning from Munich with a shoulder injury.
Bale reminds me of a failing student pulling his socks up too late
Bale did play the full 90 minutes, and was unusually diligent in his defensive duties. There's something in his attitude of the failing student who, when the penny finally drops, starts to swot hard all too late. He's a fine footballer who was signed despite not being needed, and whose astronomical price tag brought an added weight of expectation. He's tremendous when striding forward at full pelt and has a keen eye for goal, but he has had real problems integrating on the field of play - and off it, too. Having barely picked up the lingo or anything like that, he remains something of an outsider in Spain. But he got himself a goal yesterday and showed plenty of desire, more than some of those whose careers are still ahead of them. The way the defence let Leganés in to score simply wasn't good enough.
A point would have clinched Leganés survival - but they're safe anyway
Real won the game because they found the net with two less-than-picturebook goals: the first, a loose ball snapped up by Bale - who was onside by the skin of his teeth - after Benzema's shot was deflected; the second, a Dani Ceballos cross from the edge of the box that Unai Bustinza headed out of Iván Cuellar's hands, giving Borja Mayoral a far-post tap-in. The linesman got himself in a right muddle, leading the ref to hesitate over whether to give the goal and causing undue irritation among Leganés' players, who were left thinking there had been an injustice when there hadn't. 'Lega' need just a point to be sure of survival, and were close to getting it. But they're safe anyway. Since they arrived in Primera, they've been an example to others. Now we just need to find out whether Asier Garitano is staying.
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