It’s no longer news when Real Madrid lose

Levante, who started this season in LaLiga badly but have been improving, left Real Madrid’s Valdebebas ground delighted and with three points. They’re heading up the table, are in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey, and the world is generally smiling on them. Utterly unlike Real Madrid, knocked out of the Supercopa, beaten in the Copa del Rey, and behind Atlético Madrid in the league: seven points and two games in hand for Simeone's side. It’s no longer news when Real Madrid lose. Yesterday the most direct cause was Militao’s sending off after seven minutes, when he was utterly caught out by a long pass, the overall cause is the general feebleness of the squad, made worse by the absence of the players who could fire things up: Carvajal, Lucas Vázquez, Valverde, Sergio Ramos…

Madrid's defensive set-up then fell apart

Things had started well for Real Madrid too, with a long diagonal ball from Hazard to the top of the box, followed by an intelligent pass to Benzema. Like the Hazard of old. And even after Militao’s sending off, Madrid appeared to reorganise intelligently, tight at the back, gifting space and the ball to Levante to hit on the counter. That plan led to a pass from Kroos to Asensio, who set off on a great run and 1-0. But Madrid’s defensive set-up, that had seemed pretty solid to me, fell apart at a ball from the right that Hazard didn’t deal with. It fell to Morales who slammed home.

Real Madrid: a house of cards, that collapsed

That goal proved Madrid is a house of cards. Which collapsed. They tried to move, but failed. Hazard did nothing more, Benzema had a bad day, Asensio had little more to offer. Levante goalkeeper Aitor had a relaxed second half while Courtois suffered scare after scare. He stopped a penalty but was beaten by Levante’s second, a fine goal from Roger, who had failed with the penalty. The spot-kick, by the way, was given away by Vinicius, who came on for Hazard and shook things up a little for Madrid, with his runs down the right, but they came to nothing. In the end Arribas and Mariano came on for Asensio and Benzema. It was all rather shabby from Madrid. And all with the battle of the alpha males in the background: president Florentino Pérez vs Sergio Ramos, keeping everyone around the country entertained.