All fronts are open to Real Madrid, subjected to pressure in the European Cup and in the League, hurt by injuries and Covid-19, rushed by the results in the first steps of the season. Uncertainties pile up in a time of few certainties, in the midst of a pandemic that entangles everything it touches. Not even the championship classification is saved. Some teams have not played every match, which invites a virtual idea of the table. But soccer is not built virtually. Real Madrid has a lot of the League ahead to react, whenever the pace changes. At Villarreal he looked like the team that has not finished starting this season.
Alibis are easy to find when trying to justify poor results. Madrid was missing several of its best footballers. Without the backbone of the team – Sergio Ramos, Casemiro and Benzema – less reliability was suspected against an adversary that is beginning to live up to the expectations that were nurtured in the summer. Villarreal has a large and excellent squad, mixed with lifelong veterans, promising youngsters and an increasingly differential player: Gerard Moreno.
The problem of casualties was not enough to distrust a line-up built, among others, with the Belgian national team goalkeeper (Courtois), the right-back of Spain (Carvajal), two starters from France (Varane and Mendy), two indisputable from Croatia (Modric) and Germany (Kroos) in midfield, the most anticipated signing in recent years (Hazard) and one of the great sensations of the previous season (Odegaard). There are not many teams with that roster of footballers.
The good start, supported by the meticulous criteria in the development of the game, was followed by Mariano’s goal. However, Madrid lost flight very soon. He did not benefit from the shock that Villarreal suffered. Emery’s team took a long time to return to the game, but Madrid did not take advantage of it. They decided to become a dedicated, supportive and hard-working team. He was seen more aware of his limitations than of his qualities.
Madrid attacked little when Villarreal was disoriented and had a bad second half. With or without casualties, Madrid tends to lose performance in the second halves. It costs him a lot to complete a good game, both in the game and on the physical plane. It still lacks an engine. The performance decline was exacerbated by Emery’s three changes after the break. Estupiñán, Yeremi Pino and Chukweze added vigor and depth to Villarreal. Gerard Moreno was personally in charge of complicating life for Madrid.
Emery hit the correct notes in the second half, which turned definitively with the exchange of Odegaard for Isco. It had a disastrous effect for Real Madrid. In the absence of losing his shyness and taking advantage of his excellent driving, still unseen this season, Odegaard played with speed and precision. Isco entered with an air of despondency that did not clear at any time.
Villarreal grew in game and exuberance. Madrid decreased in all aspects. Courtois’ error at the start that led to the penalty does not explain the draw either. Madrid was already in regression: Hazard was transparent, Mariano received nothing to finish off and the midfielders began to drain water along with the defenders. Madrid was one step away from defeat at a critical moment of the season. Atlético flies in the League and the next station in Europe is San Siro. The match with Inter sounds like the end. Who would say at this point in the season, but everything is very rare now. Real Madrid is a test.