Signs of recovery
The first big blow for Lopetegui landed with the visit of Sevilla, when Madrid’s image became scratched and torn as they lost 3-0. Now, in another of football’s paradoxes, they displayed the first signs of recovery against none other than Sevilla. Saturday’s tie finished 2-0 (I’m not sure this particular scoreline will matter that much in the title race or the fight for fourth) and Madrid well and truly shone. Modric, whose game is indispensable to this Madrid side, put in a vintage performance, Casemiro set the tone, Vinicius added to his stock again, and Reguilón sent another message to Marcelo to keep on looking over his shoulder. In general, everything about the game will have strengthened Solari’s position.
Madrid started brightly but faded before the break, when Banega and Vázquez had a stab at evening up the game – and managed it in spells – before the home side cranked it up in the second half. The breakthrough was long in coming, but then there is no quick fix for that. The trainer can’t find the back of the net. This Madrid side don’t have goals coming out of their ears, but that’s the way it goes, and if they play the way they did against Sevilla, with the chances they created, then one will always go in at some point. The first came from an impressive hit by Casemiro, who found the net from long range, despite Vaclik’s best efforts, and the second when the game was over; Modric, the best player on the pitch, pounced to turn out the lights and shut the whole thing down.
Performance of the season
This was Madrid’s best performance of the season, and against Sevilla; not to be sniffed at. Once again Isco was left out (but came on at the end), and so too was Marcelo - in a repeat of the Betis game – a formidable player whose lack of defensive solidity could have seen a gaping hole appear down the left. I’m pleased to see Solari is protracting the warning he is sending out, because Reguilón is also some player – defensively sound and dangerous in attack. He can’t match Marcelo’s trickery and magic going forward (few can), but Madrid are no longer there for the taking down that side, and have lost on numerous occasions though frailty in that area of the pitch. Solari's message to Marcelo: all of you are important, but none of you are indispensable.