Real Madrid won against Granada by 1-0 with a headed goal from Benzema. Overall it wasn’t a great performance from Real Madrid by any measure but the important thing is that Real Madrid got the win.
Today we are going to discuss the midfield and how it performed against Granada. You can read about the defense against Granada here.
If there was one player who tried to get the slow juggernaut that is Real Madrid’s midfield moving, it was Isco.
Without James and Bale Real Madrid were already short of players who could carry the ball from the deep into the attacking third.
Having Jese and Kovacic on the bench from the start didn’t help matters but nevertheless, Isco took it upon himself to do something impactful at the Bernabeu and he did.
Isco’s central position was the key to Real Madrid’s attacking moves. He looked very confident on the ball and that is something that always surprises me given the fact that he has never been a starter for long stretches of time in a given season for Real Madrid.
It was Isco’s perfect through ball early in the game that landed just ahead of Ronaldo for him to finish, which he couldn’t do of course. Ronaldo has lost some pace from his days at Manchester United and early Real Madrid.
Isco overall game is very effective and the way he distributes the ball, would give trouble to any team. His only weakness now is his shooting ability.
Now Xavi made a career out of just passing and not shooting at all, but who says Isco has to be that way. Simply put, you need to able to score goals when you play at Real Madrid.
Against Granada with very little pressure on him, Isco took a shot at goal which could only be described as a souvenir to the stands.
Isco would say that he had a bad back (he was holding his back moments later but it turned out to be nothing serious) but we all know that shooting is something Isco isn’t adept at.
Isco took another shot at goal (from a good Benzema ball into some space inside the penalty area) and it really looked like he wanted to kill the goalkeeper but sadly, the ball went wide just enough for Ronaldo to complain of a pass afterwards.
The only advantage of playing Isco over Bale and James is Isco’s work ethic. He runs a lot. His defensive work was pretty strong against Granada. He even committed some fouls in the midfield which is always a good indicator of how a midfield player is defending.
Isco’s moment of the match was his superb left footed cross to Benzema which resulted in the only goal of the match. If you look at all the previous matches in which Isco has played, you would find that this ‘left footed cross into the box’ is something Isco seems to be working on behind the scenes.
He uses that move a lot because defenders are always expecting something good from his right foot, not the left.
In the second half, Isco was again the engine of Real Madrid’s attack. Late in the second half he won a free kick for Ronaldo which he hit into the wall. That’s 2 free kick goals from 77 free kicks for Ronaldo now.
Assuming Ronaldo would have allowed, Isco could have had a goal himself towards the end of the game when he was pushed from behind after he had made a good run into the penalty area.
But the referee digressed and called it a dive.
That was about the last piece of action Isco had one the pitch as he was taken off for Casemiro in the 84th minute of the game.
People tend to think it is Ronaldo and Bale who make this Real Madrid a force to be reckoned with but if last season was anything to go by, it was Modric’s absence in the midfield which cost Real Madrid all the big matches.
Modric did start the game off with a bad pass which gave away possession but after that early glitch, Modric was making contributions all over the pitch.
His penetrating passes from the midfield were the key behind Real madrid’s chances on goal against Granada.
There was also another moment where Modric lost concentration and overhit a cross which didn’t find any of the forwards but time after time again, he made up for his mistakes with some magical through balls which put Ronaldo and Benzema through behind the defense on several occasions.
I can’t remember the last time a player passed the ball so well in the midfield. Modric’s distribution was very meaningful throughout the game and that’s not even the start of his talents on the pitch.
His lobbed balls to Ronaldo and Benzema were also instrumental in opening up a stubborn Granada defense.
Modric is a midfield player who is complete in a unique way. He can defend and attack with quality regardless of the opposition.
His body fake which earned him a foul against Granada showed that Modric is at ease, both, while defending and attacking.
It was Modric’s killer through ball again which put Ronaldo through on goal but he couldn’t score and hit the goalkeeper instead. Modric was in action against as he whipped in a superb low cross into the penalty area from the right wing for Ronaldo to finish off but Granada’s goalkeeper anticipated really well and caught the ball before damage was done.
It is really clever of Benitez to form a system where Kroos isn’t the focal point anymore. Kross is a great player no doubt, but the last two seasons have taken a toll on his body. Benitez regularly points out the fact that Kroos is pretty much spent but is too important for Real Madrid to bench. Hence he has shifted the focus of play away from Kroos and to Modric and the rest.
Granada got a good taste of Kroos’s ball winning ability in the first half but he did have some bad moments in defense later in the half which could have cost Real Madrid but didn’t because Granada’s strikers weren’t up to the mark.
As mentioned before, Kross now plays a silent role in this system. He is tight in his defensive duties and distributes the ball in a very balanced way. Granada had a tough time closing down Real Madrid players because Kroos always found someone in space on the wings or in the middle.
His passing was unpredictable and it caused Granada to overwork themselves in chasing shadows on the pitch.
Kroos was taken off in the 61 nth minute for Kovacic.
Kovacic, even though just 21, slotted right into Kroos’s position and played rather well in the remaining thirty odd minutes of the game. His bad pass did give possession back to Granada in the midfield but otherwise, he took up some very savvy defensive positions which allowed Real Madrid to organize easily at the back.
Without James and Bale, Real Madrid’s midfield looked dull and uninventive against Granada though Isco and Modric tried their best to kickstart the midfield.
Ronaldo and Benzema don’t look the same players as they look when James is playing behind them.
Photo by Heavenbound
Photo by ajgelado
Photo by apasciuto