Real Madrid’s La Liga title defence began with a goalless draw away at Real Sociedad.
It was a brave selection from Zinedine Zidane, who left out Casemiro from the starting 11 in a decision which would have shocked every analyst. The Brazilian, who only missed three La Liga games last season, two of which were through suspension, was crucial to Madrid, and so it was an eye-opening decision from Zidane to kick-off things in the league.
The headline though, was that Martin Ødegaard returned to the Reale Arena after his successful season on loan, and featured in the starting 11, returning to competitive action for Madrid for the first time since 2016. But despite the addition of the Norwegian, Los Blancos weren’t too different from their post-lockdown form. In possession, they were dominant, but too safe, not adventurous enough in possession, and didn’t really create any serious opportunities.
In contrast, it took the hosts almost half an hour to produce an opportunity which exposed Madrid. Ferland Mendy was involved in an attack, and on the counter, Sociedad were away in the vacated space by Mendy, before the Frenchman got back and recovered with a necessary foul.
Before the break, Karim Benzema had his first opportunity, after Madrid increased the tempo and pace of their combinations. A nice one between Ødegaard, Toni Kroos and Mendy had Benzema open, who lost his footing whilst taking his shot.
Against the run of play, it was actually the hosts who had the best chance of the opening half. Alexander Isak was through one on one, and forced a huge save from Thibaut Courtois who was off his line rapidly to block the shot.
After the resumption, the hosts picked from where they left off in the first. Mikel Oyarzabal teed up Ander Barrenetxea, who’s volley sailed just wide. At the hour mark, some nice play from Rodrygo Goes created room for Benzema at the edge of the box, who’s side-footed effort forced a big save from Alex Remiro.
Zidane summons academy player Marvin Park for his debut, straight swap for Rodrygo, who yet again struggled to impose himself on the right wing. That will be one of Zidane’s big challenges, to somehow get the Brazilian thriving in an unnatural position for him.
It’s a similar theme to the first half, Madrid have struggled to create clear-cut openings, fairly toothless in possession. With 15 minutes left on the clock, it’s a performance which leaves more questions than answers. With three minutes remaining, David Silva almost capped off a sensational return to La Liga, with his first shot on goal, but Raphael Varane charged down and blocked the shot that was destined to head into the top corner.
But it would end goalless, with Madrid controlling possession but Sociedad producing the best chance of the evening. Is that a point gained, or two points dropped? We’ll leave that for you to decide.
Up next for Real Madrid?
Who: Real Betis
When: Saturday 20th September 2020 @ 21:00 CEST
Where: Estadio Benito Villamarín