Sergio Ramos sins and Gareth Bale quietens Real Madrid boo-boys in Viktoria Plzen win

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Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale led the way for Real Madrid as they battered Viktoria Plzen 5-0 in the Champions League.

Top versus bottom met in Group G and a predictably one-sided contest followed – unlike the nervy 2-1 reverse win put in by Los Blancos as Julen Lopetegui’s reign unraveled.

Here is the report card from Doosan Arena.

30-SECOND REPORT

Madrid travelled east with criticism ringing in their ears from the weekend’s unsightly – and fortunate – triumph against Real Valladolid.

They wasted little time in providing a retort. Karim Benzema artfully danced clear for the opener, prior to a pair of headers from Brazil anchorman Casemiro and the aforementioned French striker, plus maligned Wales forward Gareth Bale’s volley.

The best was saved for the second half. Substitute Vinicius Junior charged clear and played in Germany metronome Toni Kroos, who delicately lobbed a first-time effort.

A wild, early elbow from skipper Sergio Ramos was the only negative.

THE GOOD

Before Wednesday night’s walkover, Benzema and Bale had contributed just nine goals to the Madrid cause in 2018/19.

A paltry return for a team that has lost the crushing weight of numbers produced by now-Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Little wonder that then-misfiring Bale exited Santiago Bernabeu during the weekend’s difficult 2-0 win against Valladolid to a cascade of boos.

The pair were back to their predatory best against Plzen. Benzema skipped through for a delightful opener – a landmark 200th goal for Madrid – and headed in the third, with Bale also profited aerially to make it 4-0.

If caretaker Santiago Solari’s only lasting imprint is a revitalisation of this duo, he’ll have done his job.

THE BAD

A trail of bloodied and broken opponents seem to follow Ramos.

The veteran centre-back was highly fortunate to escape a 25th red card for Madrid when a wild – and unnecessary – elbow made brutal contact with Milan Havel’s nose in the 13th minute. The midfielder instantly crumpled to his knees as claret poured out and the perpetrator feigned typical innocence.

Severe punishment should have followed. It, undoubtedly, would have done if VAR (video-assistant referee) was utilised in the 2018/19 competition.

Ramos, consequentially, got away with the ‘chicken wing’ that damaged Mohamed Salah’s shoulder and the wild elbow that dazed Loris Karius in last term’s Champions League final versus Liverpool.

This pattern of violent behaviour was established more than a decade ago. Why referees are now letting him off is perplexing and unacceptable.

TACTICAL TURNING POINT

Solari’s pedigree as a winger of some repute has been highly visible during his three-game, temporary, Madrid reign.

More than 40 crosses were pumped in during the fortunate victory against Valladolid upon his La Liga bow. Criticism for this approach was just as plentiful.

The ex-Argentina international could easily have folded in the face of such opprobrium. Yet, when a star-studded midfield still has the propensity to play as if wading through treacle, a reductive approach is required.

Against Plzen, Casemiro scored direct from a corner, plus Bale and Benzema struck a header and volley apiece.

It’s rarely pretty. But it is effective.

VERDICTS

Viktoria Plzen C

With Lopetegui out of the picture, this was always going to be a more-exacting test for the Czech top-flight’s current second-placed side.

To concede a pair of headers will provide immense frustration for head coach Pavel Vrba.

Real Madrid A-

Three games down and three wins chalked up.

Under Lopetegui, Madrid went 481 minutes without a goal.

Solari has allied pragmatism with moments of genius. It has been a useful approach to date.

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No place for Vinicius Junior in Real Madrid starting XI against Viktoria Plzen

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There is no place for Brazilian teenage sensation Vinicius Junior in the Real Madrid starting XI for their Champions League trip to Viktoria Plzen.

It had been widely speculated that the 18-year-old would start in the Czech Republic after sparking Los Blancos’ 2-0 win over Real Valladolid after emerging off the bench at the weekend.

But interim Real boss Santiago Solari retains Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema up top, although Lucas Vazquez comes in for Marco Asensio.

Vinicius is on the bench, along with Luka Modric, Asensio and Isco.

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Live Real Madrid Blog: No Vinicius Junior in Real Madrid starting XI

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Hello Madridistas!

It’s Niall here bringing you all your Los Blancos news on Wednesday.

As ever, get in touch with us throughout the day via Twitter and Facebook.

23:13 – No Vinicius Junior in Real Madrid starting XI

There is no place for Brazilian teenage sensation Vinicius Junior in the Real Madrid starting XI for their Champions League trip to Viktoria Plzen.

Read more here.

20:55 – Real target Skriniar won’t leave Inter for less than €100m

MilanSkriniarInterMilan (1)

Milan Skriniar made the headlines for all the right reasons on Tuesday night after an incredible defensive performance in Inter Milan’s Champions League draw against Barcelona at the San Siro.

Skrinar has drawn interest from the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

And head coach Luciano Spalletti insisted the Slovak won’t leave Inter for less than €100m – before joking that he wouldn’t mind a €40m tip to go with it.

Read more here.

19:12 – Iniesta has sympathy for Lopetegui

Andres-Iniesta-Barcelona

Former Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta has voiced his support for sacked former Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui, who he holds in high regard.

Iniesta had shared a strong bond with Lopetegui during the two years of the latter’s tenure as La Roja coach.

Read what the former Barca player had to say about Lopetegui here.

15:00 – Check out these skills from Vinicius Junior

13:00 – Eleven hours until kick off

11:00 – The curious case of Isco 

We take a look at why it might be a make or break for the Spaniard.

9:00 – Final preparations before tonight’s game

Los Blancos players trained last night at Doosan Arena ahead of their Champions League match against Viktoria Plzen (kick off 00:00 UAE time).

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