Those magnificent Toni Kroos passes

Pedja Mijatovic hit the nail on the head right at the start of last night’s broadcast of Carrusel when he predicted that Real Madrid were going to play a cautious game, without overexerting themselves, with the belief that a goal would eventually come. And if it didn’t, a draw wouldn’t be so bad, because even one point would be enough to put the team top of the table. As it turned out, Mijatovic was spot on – towards the end of the second half, Nacho met a wonderful cross into the box from Toni Kroos to give Madrid the goal they had been waiting for. One solitary goal that puts Madrid three points clear of Barça, who I would imagine are starting to think they might have been a little too hasty in replacing their coach.

Toni Kroos in action against Valladolid

Kroos puts it on a sixpence

As I say, it was a magnificent ball in by Kroos. Another one, with similar precision could have put Casemiro on the scoresheet earlier in the game had it not been chalked off by VAR for a marginal offside. Kroos’ pinpoint crosses into the box, whether from open play, set-pieces or corners are a real boon for Madrid. It’s those kinds of assets that can decide evenly-fought games. Valladolid are a side that doesn’t attack much but are very good at neutralizing their opponents. They did precisely that against Madrid, managing to ensure that Zidane’s team hardly got near their penalty area; but they had no antidote to Kroos’ inch-perfect centres right into the danger zone.

You, yes you! Nacho acknowledges Kroos for his assist

Madrid serve Barcelona a body blow

It has to be said that it wasn’t a great game from Madrid. The two full-backs Nacho and Mendy, hardly ventured upfield; the four-man midfield (which, I might add, didn’t include Fede Valverde) managed the ball well but Valladolid were so well positioned that the ball didn’t often reach Benzema and Rodrygo. So the game chugged along in those conditions, with Madrid waiting for a goal to come. It arrived just in time and with it, Madrid go top just at the moment that Barça are enveloped in doubts and problems of their own making. Now Zidane is the one who is holding all the cards.