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Real Madrid 7-1 Deportivo La Coruña: Five talking points from Bernabéu

The Boot Room

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Photo: Reuters

In Sunday’s post-match press conference, Zinedine Zidane said: “What changed today is the result, that we scored the chances we made, nothing else.” However, there is always a tale to tell, especially when it comes to Real Madrid and this week’s 7-1 thrashing of Deportivo de La Coruña was no different.

Cristiano Ronaldo made the headlines after taking a boot to the head when scoring a very valiant header, but it was Gareth Bale who got the standing ovation and was the reason behind a pervading brisk smile among the crowd.

He has played a significant part in the games in which he has appeared as a substitute this season and he was arguably the best attacking player Real had on the field last week against Villarreal.

After suffering from numerous injuries, the Welshman has managed to put his time on the sidelines behind him. He is currently the top scorer of the team with seven goals, despite missing out a handful of games.

With the league, all but theoretically over for Real Madrid, the hefty 7-1 win was important in many ways.

Real’s slump has put them 19 points behind arch-rivals, Barcelona, and they are currently sitting fourth on the table. The win, dare we say resurrection, over Deportivo La Coruna could mean a turnaround for Real Madrid.

Here are the five talking points of the tie…

Gareth Bale – the long-awaited return of the Welshmen

Real Madrid have had their fair share of creating chances in matches, half or full – they squandered them all. The quality of the chances was missing and misguided crosses were thrown to yield no results. Bale has brought the finishing-touch back to the team and his ability to run past defenders, creating space for an extra touch, has helped his side in scoring.

Bale, for the first goal against Deportivo, chested down the ball, took a touch and curled it around the defender past the goalkeeper – a famed finish he has personified over the years. He dominated the flank and his understanding with Dani Carvajal and Luka Modric was transparent. Meanwhile, his second reminded the hosts how they have missed him in the air.

For a team like Madrid, with players like Ronaldo, Ramos, Casemiro, Varane, and Benzema, scoring headers should be a norm. Although the case in the past, this term they have failed to replicate the same dominance in the air and the Welshman has reminded the crowd what he is capable of in this respect.

Squad rotation

Squad rotation has played a massive role in Real’s recent triumphs and Zidane deserves credit for this. However, this season, the quality from the bench is not there. The contribution from the substitutes is lacking and their inefficiency to provide something concrete has let the team down.

Zidane stuck to his usual principles by putting out a B-team against Leganes for the club’s Copa del Ray clash, resting his star players.

Perhaps for the first time in the season, the squad looked fresher and near 100% if not fully fit.

This victory was a hard-earned one – Marco Asensio’s beautiful finish averted the eyes from an awful performance, but they managed to get the result.

That allowed the ageing squad members to take a breather and the performance against Deportivo was the subsequent result.

Lucas Vasquez and Mateo Kovacic were substituted and since contributed to the win, with the former providing an assist and the latter holding up the ball masterfully during the counter-attack, finished by Modric a few seconds later.

A comeback for BBC

The decision to switch back to 4-3-3, with no Isco on the field, asserted the fact that Real is a better side with a front three, instead of a no. 10 behind two strikers. Due to various injuries, it had been more 270 days since the famous trio were in action and it is clear that Madrid have dearly missed them.

Borja Mayoral started up front against Deportivo, only to be substituted by Karim Benzema, who has recently recovered from the injury. 4-3-3 resolved the issues Real were facing with a 4-4-2 diamond. The overlapping runs were seamless and during the transition, it was easy to defend. What that means for the future Isco is a separate debate.

The midfield three

It has been quite a while since fans have seen the midfield trio of Luka Modric, Casemiro, and Toni Kroos in full swing. As glamorous as it was, the link-up play had become damaged and Casemiro’s defensive cover was not proving up to par.

Against Deportivo, however, they were back to their brilliant best.

Casemiro bossed the game, winning seven balls, while weighing with a 92.3% pass success percentage and a brilliant lofted cross that was buried into the net by Ronaldo. He has been labeled as Claude Makélélé of Zidane’s Madrid – rightfully so, as well.

The link-up play between Kroos and Modric was also improved. The former didn’t suffer defensively, like he has done in his recent outings and his confidence seemed restored. Meanwhile, the latter scored a screamer, while proving his understanding with Bale is far greater than that with either Lucas Vasquez or Marco Asensio.

Lackadaisical defending

The big guns fired for Real Madrid, as Bale and Ronaldo both scored braces on Sunday, but the fact is that victory came against a struggling team – although Real needed a win like this to make a statement and build some momentum before the Paris Saint Germain showdown on Valentine’s day (you can predict this result with M88 betting in China).

In hindsight, the defensive frailties are still there to solve. Raphael Varane is solid, almost, and the Frenchman is having a great season. A downside to his game is his partnership with virtually anyone but Sergio Ramos – who is out due to injury.

In Ramos’ absence, Nacho Fernandez comes in. As good as they both have been individually, the understanding is not there – at least not yet.

Marcelo has improved his attacking play. He is great going forward but the concern is still there when it comes to tracking back, especially when the likes Neymar and Kyliann Mbappe will be running the show down the flanks.

Against Deportivo, Dani Carvajal had a solid game after some time and Nacho was undoubtedly the best defender of the night – scoring two goals and cleared one off the line with a brilliant sliding tackle.

A win like this could definitely boost the morale of a team which has been underperforming quite significantly. However, Real should not get too complacent with the victory as the tougher fixtures lie ahead.

The Boot Room is a football analysis website, bringing original and creative content to the fans of the English Football League.

Champions League

Gareth Bale’s red-hot Real Madrid form should scare Liverpool

The Welshman has scored 11 goals in his last 15 appearances.

Max Cohen

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Gareth Bale
Photo: Getty Images

In Real Madrid’s final league match of this season on Saturday, Gareth Bale swept home a lovely right-footed finish to open the scoring against Villarreal.

That goal marked the Welshman’s 11th goal in his last 15 appearances for club and country; a remarkably prolific run of form that should scare Liverpool ahead of next weekend’s Champions League final.

Injury problems have marred much of Bale’s time at the Bernabeu, and he suffered a lengthy two-month absence from the first team this fall.

Yet, after returning from his injury lay-off, the former world-record signing has hit full form in the last two months.

In that time period, the winger has scored a hat-trick for Wales, braces against Las Palmas and Celta Vigo, and a crucial goal versus Barcelona.

This spring resurgence presents a worrying prospect for Liverpool’s defence, who already will have their hands full trying to keep Cristiano Ronaldo in check in Kiev.

(Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

Add in Gareth Bale hitting full form, and suddenly the task at hand for Jurgen Klopp’s men appears far more difficult.

The 28-year-old also has quite the decorated history for los Blancos in cup finals. In his debut season for Real, Bale scored sensational winning goals in both the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals.

The following season in the European Cup final, the Welshman assisted Real Madrid’s sole goal and scored his penalty in the ensuing shoot-out; his cup final record is simply superb.

Combined with Bale’s recent tremendous goalscoring form, the prospect of facing up against the powerful winger might strike fear in the Liverpool backline.

But the Reds have proven adept in stifling some of the best attacks in Europe this season.

Liverpool famously restricted high-scoring Manchester City to just one goal over 180 minutes in the quarterfinals and the Reds will have to conjure up that heroic rearguard performance in order to stop the on-form Gareth Bale next weekend.

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Liverpool

Liverpool will be delighted with Real Madrid’s weakness in latest defeat

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Photo: Getty Images.

Real Madrid are undoubtedly a daunting prospect for any side in Europe, particularly given that they have already seen off the champions of France, Italy and Germany in the Champions League this season, but there may be hope yet for Liverpool.

Zinedine Zidane’s team have struggled domestically this campaign and find themselves 18 points behind league champions Barcelona, who were, of course, earlier knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool’s semi-final opponents AS Roma.

Los Blancos are on track for their worst points return since Cristiano Ronaldo joined the club from Manchester United in 2009 and this week’s surprising defeat to Sevilla, who Liverpool drew with both home and away in the group stage, showed some weaknesses which will have Jurgen Klopp licking his lips.

Sevilla v Real Madrid - La Liga

SEVILLE, SPAIN – MAY 09: Head coach Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid looks on prior to the start the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium on May 9, 2018 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

The first thing to point out is that Real Madrid were without many of their key men, the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Marcelo were all rested whilst Gareth Bale was suspended. Cristiano Ronaldo, Dani Carvajal and Isco were all absent through injury and whilst the latter returned to training on Friday, the first two could face a race against time to be fit for Kiev.

Despite that, the weaknesses on show were not new to Real Madrid this season as they again struggled against a side who were not afraid to be physical and attack on the counter.

Early on, Zidane’s side dominated but Sevilla twice countered incisively, once by going long through the middle, as Liverpool were accused of doing time after time against Roma with a stunning impact, and once down the flanks with pace, just as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane possess in abundance.

After going behind, the nerves got to Real Madrid and even captain Sergio Ramos seemed to struggle with the pressure as he fired a penalty onto the crossbar and then deflected a cross into his own net.

A late comeback with Ramos not making the same mistake again and Borja Mayoral scoring after coming on as a substitute saved some face for the reigning European champions, but Liverpool will relish facing a disjointed defence like that.

Of particular interest, beyond Real Madrid’s struggle with pace on the flanks and long balls through the middle, will have been Zidane’s experimenting at right-back, this time choosing versatile Nacho at full-back in place of Carvajal, rather than Lucas Vazquez who started there against Bayern Munich.

Nacho, who would be favourite to play against Liverpool if Carvajal is not fit, is a reliable option who makes few mistakes, but has previously struggled up against the pace of a player like Sadio Mane.

Liverpool may have a mountain to climb, but tactically, the path is there for Liverpool to exploit Real Madrid’s weaknesses.

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Liverpool

Real Madrid prospect Dani Ceballos would be tremendous signing for Jurgen Klopp

The 21-year-old is expected to leave the Spanish capital this summer.

Max Cohen

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Photo: Getty Images

This past week reports in the Spanish media outlet Don Balon linked Real Madrid central midfielder Dani Ceballos with a move to Liverpool.

Ceballos is an immensely talented creative player who would slot in perfectly at Anfield and, at only 21 years of age, has the potential to be a Kop favourite for many seasons to come.

The Spanish Under-21 international joined Madrid from Real Betis last summer for a fee of around 15 million euros, after 98 appearances and seven goals for the Sevilla club.

Ceballos has frustratingly found first-team opportunities severely limited at the Bernabeu, as the youngster is forced to contend for playing time with some of the biggest names in world football.

A move to Liverpool would be an ideal switch for the talented playmaker, as he could adequately fill the gap that the outgoing Emre Can will create. A uniquely skilful dribbler, Ceballos has a wand of a right foot that can flick the ball past defenders at ease.

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

A quick glance at the Spaniard’s highlight roll reveals a plethora of intricate touches, driving runs, and slicing through balls that terrorise opposition backlines. What is even more impressive is that Ceballos produced such feats as a young player in La Liga, against the likes of Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, and other top sides.

The midfielder has also hit fine form for the Spanish youth set-up, winning the prestigious Player of the Tournament awards at the U-21 European Championships last summer. His performances in Poland were eye-catching, captivating audiences with his mazy runs and audacious feints.

If the 21-year-old makes the switch to Anfield, he would provide the perfect complement to the high-powered attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane.

To imagine Ceballos slotting wonderfully weighted through balls to those three is a salivating sight for Liverpool supporters; they must hope he chooses to join Jurgen Klopp’s side this offseason.

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