As an intense Madrid derby awaits, Real Madrid faced Osasuna in a tricky midweek fixture. With days left for the crucial derby against Atletico Madrid, Zidane rung the changes in his starting lineup. Madrid’s youngsters shine against another unbeaten side in La Liga and lay down a marker.
Madrid’s Youngsters Shine as Intense Derby Awaits
On Wednesday, Zinedine Zidane made eight changes to the side that beat Sevilla at the weekend. This was done to rest some of the key players of the squad ahead of the weekend derby. First league starts were handed to Alphonse Areola, Eder Militao, Nacho Fernandez, Federico Valverde, and Luka Jovic. But these youngsters were surrounded by veterans like Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos and Casemiro, who will also be primed to start against their city rivals. Lucas Vasquez and Vinicius Junior started out wide and completed a dangerous-looking frontline.
Real Madrid have faced multiple problems in defence in Zinedine’s Zidane’s second spell at the club. Defending in transition is the most prominent issue they face. Against Sevilla, Los Blancos (although in green that evening) were solid and compact in defense as superstar wingers Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard worked their socks off tracking back. That performance visibly gave them much confidence as they had not kept a clean sheet before that this season.
The 33-time Spanish champions had little trouble keeping Osasuna out of dangerous areas. Casemiro did his usual dirty work with ease, and Ramos marshaled a patched-up defence well. Nacho, who slotted in at left-back, had a solid performance at the back, although he made very few forays into the attacking third.
Militao, of whom much was made when he seemed rather uncomfortable during his presentation presser, was the complete opposite of that on his first league start. He commanded the box when dealing with crosses and showed a great turn of pace when opposition forwards got through the high press initiated by Ramos. Alvaro Odriozola had a typical performance of his up-and-down runs on the right side.
Real Madrid created quite a few chances in this game. Toni Kroos played as the most advanced midfielder, something he has not done much of in his time at the Bernabeau. Valverde complemented him well as he pressed high up the pitch.
Luka Jovic was the most disappointing of the side’s youngsters. His goal was ruled offside by VAR, and he also missed two gilt-edged opportunities (one in each half). Lucas Vasquez provided good width and creativity with Odriozola on the right. Vinicius Junior had a very hot and cold game but struck an impressive shot which took a slight deflection into the top corner. His celebration was highly emotional as his form had dipped since peaking under Santiago Solari last season.
But the real highlight of the game came when the 19-year-old was replaced by another Brazilian teenager: Rodrygo Goes, who arrived at the club this summer. It did not take long for him to make history, either, as he became the second quickest Real debutant to score (after Brazilian legend Ronaldo).
Wonderfully controlling a long ball, Rodrygo drifted into the box, cut in, and shot past the keeper into the bottom corner. Tipping his imaginary hat off to the Bernabeau, he put the icing on the cake for Madrid’s youngsters. Looking forward, Zinedine Zidane might have a selection headache ahead as Real Madrid’s youngsters make their mark.
Intense Madrid Derby Awaits
Atletico Madrid beat Real 7-3 in a preseason friendly in July. But this time, Atletico are not facing an unfit, out of form side. Quite to the contrary, Real Madrid have become the table-toppers in a very competitive start to the Spanish top flight. Atletico trail their neighbours by a solitary point.
Both sides have contrasting styles too. Atletico are playing flowing football with a dynamic attack up front. Diego Costa is not missing Antoine Griezmann as much as many would have thought. Joao Felix has taken to Spanish football like a duck to water, notching two goals and an assist in six appearances.
Real, on the other hand, have started to sort out their defensive game. They have stuck to a counter-attacking scheme, coupled with aggressive pressing from the front in all their positive performances. Meanwhile, they continue to have enough attacking qualities to hurt their opponents. Both sides picking up some form, an intense 223rd Madrid derby awaits.
Embed from Getty Images