Real Madrid snapped their poor, embarrassing three-game winless streak by overpowering Deportivo Alaves on Saturday, 4-1. After recent results including a loss in the Spanish Supercup semifinal to Athletic Bilbao and a shock defeat to minnows Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, Los Blancos bounced back without their coach Zinedine Zidane, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.
Los Blancos were outshot 15-10 but had the better of the chances, scoring three times in the first half. Karim Benzema led the way with two goals, Casemiro added another and Eden Hazard scored his first league goal for the club since Oct. 31, 2020.
The victory brings Real to within four points of league leaders and city rivals Atletico Madrid, who play Valencia on Sunday.
Here are three takeaways from the match:
Benzema continues to shine as the No. 9
This team goes as Benzema goes in attack. When the French striker scores, Real barely lose. They’ve been defeated just twice since last summer when he scores, in fact they are 15-2 in their last 17 games in which he scores. He continues to deliver and put himself in position to score with great timed runs and a clinical ability to find the right place to put the ball when one-on-one with a goalkeeper.
Hazard gets much-needed goal
Will this be the time Eden Hazard finally gets going? The former Chelsea man had a tidy finish in this one but once again didn’t have many chances, converting one of his two shots. He scored his third goal in his last 10 games which shows a slight improvement in production after going 19 games without a goal. With some poor opponents coming up, he’s got a chance to build some momentum with just a month to go until the Champions League round of 16 first leg against Atalanta.
He’s missed so much time due to injuries and hasn’t fully gelled with the team, and the next month or so will be crucial in determining if Real really contend for anything this season as Benzema cannot do it all by himself.
Alaves need a change before it is too late
Something has got to give at Deportivo Alaves sooner rather than later. Despite not being in the drop zone, no team has dropped more league games than the 10 they’ve lost this season. On a four-game skid, relegation seems increasingly likely thanks to a defense that has crumbled as of late, conceding 14 times in the last four games in all competitions. They must look to boost the backline before it gets out of hand. Coach Pablo Machin was already kicked to the curb earlier this month with Abelardo Fernandez taking charge for a second time.
But they still have a fighting chance. The relegation battle reaches into the top half of the table, with even ninth-place Cadiz only seven points clear. There is still plenty of time, but they’re going to have to find something that works at the back to have any shot.