Real Madrid got back to winning and kept their unbeaten streak alive in La Liga on Saturday as Los Blancos played to a 2-0 win against Celta Viga in Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano. Real Madrid were coming off a 1-1 draw on the road against Elche, a disappointing result considering Elche’s table position, but bounced back to ring in the new year with an impressive outing.
Manager Zinedine Zidane rolled his team out in a back four and opted to give Marco Asensio the start as part of the attacking trio once again for the injured Rodrygo. The backline saw adjustments with Nacho starting in place of captain Sergio Ramos, and Mendy back on the left flank in place of Marcelo. An experienced midfield in Toni Kroos, Casemiro, and Luka Modric were supposed to set the tone for the team immediately.
It didn’t quite happen that way. Instead. it was a promising start for the visiting side as Celta Viga nearly got on the scoreboard first as Iago Aspas attempted to chip Courtois for an opening goal. Nacho was there for the recovery and cleared the ball away for Madrid to quickly counter. Asensio drove into the box one vs one against his defender and got a cross off to a waiting Lucas Vazquez for the opening header in the first five minutes of the match. It was a dizzyingly fast end to end move.
The home side would continue to dominate the left side of the pitch, with the midfield trio feeding Asensio along the flank and making defenders pay. The early action did not foretells an eventful half, however, as the two sides would enter the break combining for only six shots with Real Madrid just edging out Celta Vigo 4 to 2.
Second half power move
Zidane would continue with his initial starting eleven to begin the second half, with Celta Vigo failing to do anything with the possession that they were retaining. Madrid’s midfield continued to disrupt and dazzle the ball away for their side. It was this midfield dominance that saw Madrid double their lead in the 53rd minute.
A terrible pass from Murillo was intercepted by Modric and the ball then moved seamlessly up the pitch from the Croation to Casimero, to Vazquez, to Asensio for Real Madrid’s second goal.
The goal would just fuel Los Blancos as the match went on, with Karim Benzema very nearly getting a third goal for the hosts with Modric and Kroos linking up to feed Benzema through on goal, but his touch tickled just inches wide of the far post as the game clock ticked past the hour mark.
Zidane would begin to sub out his match MVPs as Asensio, Kroos, and Modric and others were all subbed out with the final fifteen minutes remaining. Eden Hazard played in the place of Asensio, continuing to build on his minutes from the last game.
Ultimately it didn’t matter that Madrid saw less of the ball, with Celta having 59% possession, because after scoring so early Madrid were able to focus on preserving their lead and did well to disrupt in midfield and create counterattacking scenarios that led to a number of strong chances in front of goal.
Nacho, Real Madrid: The center back had a big day on the backline slotting in for Sergio Ramos. He spearheaded the move for the opening goal with his goal line clearance, and was responsible for a second goal stopping block down the stretch to keep a clean sheet for Los Blancos. Rating: 8
Marco Asensio, Real Madrid: Made his return to the line up and showed why he’s become a regular for Zidane on at the moment. Completely dominated the left wing leaving Celta Vigo with no answers. Assisted on Madrid’s opening goal, and scored their second. Rating: 9
Toni Kroos, Real Madrid: The midfielder with the most touches in the first half for Real Madrid, was a menace on the ball against Celta Vigo. And he wasn’t conservative with the ball either, as he was constantly looking to link up with his forwards. Rating: 8.5
Luka Modric, Real Madrid: The Croation midfielder had another big game for Los Blancos as both facilitator and generator. Did well to defend against Celta Vigo’s attempt at attacking and linking up with his top line. Rating: 8.5
The 2-0 win means Real Madrid finally sit atop the league table in first place after weeks of chasing Atletico Madrid. They sit in first place with 36 points, just a slim point margin ahead of their crosstown rivals who have 35. Real Madrid will look to build on their standing next week when they face Osasuna on Jan. 9 on the road in El Sadar.