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Real Madrid ratings vs Celta: Benzema matches Santillana

The Frenchman struck twice in Balaídos to secure three points for Madrid and draw level with the great Santillana while Toni Kroos had an excellent game.

Real Madrid ratings vs Celta: Benzema matches Santillana

Real Madrid moved to second place in LaLiga overnight with a 3-1 victory at Celta on Saturday. Karim Benzema continued his recent fine form with two goals and Marco Asensio added a late third after Santi Mina had pulled one back for the home side.

Here’s how Zinedine Zidane’s side rated in Balaídos.

Thibaut Courtois: The Belgian keeper conceded for a fifth consecutive game but had little chance of stopping Mina’s well-placed header. Otherwise, Courtois was solid in the air and made a decent stop to deny Iago Aspas in the second half.

Lucas Vázquez: Another solid game from the back-up right back, who is not far off making the position his own. Nolito gave him the run-around at times but the former Barça and Manchester City player can have that effect. In attack, as always, he was active and teed up several promising chances.

Raphaël Varane: Playing as Madrid’s last line of defence, the Frenchman had a very good game. His ability to close down across the lines and sang-froid on the ball when under pressure are key to Madrid’s back line functioning in the absence of Sergio Ramos.

Nacho: Steps up whenever required, which has been more often than not in this injury-hit season for Madrid. Zidane needs a defensive leader when the captain is out. His anticipation adds another layer to Madrid’s back line and he denied Facundo a late equaliser.

Ferland Mendy: Impeccable in defensive duty, he shut down his side of the pitch to the extent that Celta shifted to the centre and left in search of openings. In attack though he wasn’t as effective and didn’t add a lot to Madrid’s forward forays.

Casemiro: The Brazilian is one Zidane’s key players and showed it again. Pressing high when needed, after Madrid went 2-0 up he dropped back to screen the defence, breaking up several attacks, blocking shots and making last ditch tackles. He also backed up Kroos and Modric when the two more attacking midfielders started to tire and got in the way of an Aspas shot bound for goal.

Kroos control

Toni Kroos: Another excellent performance from the German, who added two assists to his tally for the season. Commanding on the ball, he kept it moving rapidly and pressed high when not in possession, which led to Madrid’s second. His dead ball delivery was also spot on.

Luka Modric: A good first half was characterised by his desire to be on the ball in the tightest of spots and he was always available for his teammates. After the break he started to tire and played a few loose balls.

Fede Valverde: Zidane deployed the Uruguayan as a right-sided winger and Valverde struggled to adapt. He did what he could, keeping the ball moving from box to box and provided a bit of extra width on the right. But it remains difficult to see how he can operate in the same midfield as Kroos with both preferring a more central role.

Vinicius: Started brightly but tailed off later on. His ability to take on defenders and beat players with pure speed was on display but so was his poor decision-making with the final ball and his erratic shooting. The Brazilian is an excellent source of counter-attacking potency but needs more work on his end product.

Karim Benzema: If he catches so much as a cold Zidane is going to have a serious problem. Benzema is in the form of his life and seemingly can’t miss at the moment, scoring two excellent striker’s goals. In doing so, he moved level with Madrid great Santillana in fourth on the all-time scoring list and added an assist for Asensio for good measure.

Substitutes

Marco Asensio: A second goal in consecutive games for the winger, who was obliged to spend his 20-minute cameo rolling up his sleeves in defence more than getting forward.