Disastrous defending a big concern for Real Madrid in 3-1 defeat but young guns offer hope

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Real Madrid seem destined to end a disappointing season with a whimper as a 3-1 defeat at Real Sociedad was their 11th of this La Liga campaign.

Zinedine Zidane once again left Gareth Bale out of the matchday squad, starting with bright young talent Brahim Diaz instead while Vinicius Junior made an appearance off the bench.

Brahim impressed with a fine solo effort in the sixth minute to give the away side the lead but Sociedad responded strongly and were rewarded for their efforts.

A superb team goal was rounded off when Willian Jose laid the ball off for Mikel Merino to steer home the equaliser in the 26th minute.

Jesus Vallejo reduced his side to ten men when his hand ball on the line conceded a penalty and earned him a red card. However, Thibaut Courtois was able to deny Willian from the spot.

The second half though saw the hosts take the lead through Joseba Zaldua before Ander Barrenetxea’s towering header added a third.

EXCITING YOUNG OPTIONS

Every time he’s been afforded an opportunity, Brahim has impressed. His technical ability is unparalleled, even in a team like Madrid brimming with some truly special talents, while there’s an air of confidence in his game that only the best players can boast of.

It took the youngster a little over five minutes at the Anoeta to remind everyone of his brilliance. At the end of a run that was equal parts dazzling and determined, his clever finish under the Sociedad keeper Geronimo Rulli was indicative of his footballing intellect.

But the Spaniard isn’t the first teenager to wow Madridistas this season. Vinicius Junior – who returned from injury against Villarreal last week – made another cameo appearance on Sunday. He was the best thing to come out of Madrid’s campaign earlier on. The 18-year-old won over the Los Blancos support with his mesmeric dribbling and searing pace but unlike Brahim, he didn’t always boast the necessary composure.

That said, his talent should be at the forefront come next season, adding to the options Zidane will have at his disposal. Joining Brahim and Vinicius could be Marco Asensio. The 23-year-old Spaniard has endured a season to forget but remains a favourite of Zidane’s and should he come back strongly after the summer, he’ll be in line for more opportunities.

Meanwhile, Rodrygo is also set to join the first team from Santos.

Brahim Diaz

BALE OUT

Speaking of Zidane’s options next season, Bale is unlikely to feature among them. The returning Madrid boss named the Welshman in the starting XI for his first match back at the helm. In fact, the former Tottenham star was named in five of Zidane’s first eight matches into his second spell.

However, it seems as if the Frenchman was only making a point. It’s no secret that Zidane doesn’t favour the forward and following his underwhelming displays of late, he probably has enough ammunition to use against him and bring in someone else. That process appears to be underway now after Bale was dropped from the matchday squad entirely for the second consecutive time.

Eden Hazard has been strongly linked with a move to the Bernabeu and Zidane has spoken highly of the Belgian. The Chelsea star won’t come cheaply but should Bale be forced out the door, the 28-year-old seems like the ideal candidate to replace him.

Gareth Bale

DISASTROUS DEFENDING

Despite Madrid’s poor run of results even after Zidane’s return, there are little snippets of the attack threatening to click. With players like Brahim and Vinicius being introduced into fold, there’s plenty of potential in the final third.

However, there’s been no improvement defensively and therein lies the real concern for Madrid. Again, they were at sixes and sevens in the defeat to Sociedad.

The defending was shambolic as Vallejo allowed Mikel Oyarzabal to run in behind him before eventually scoring, only for VAR to rule out his goal for offside. The centre-back was at fault again, along with Dani Carvajal, when Sociedad did equalise as Merino had acres of space inside the area.

Marcelo wore the armband in Sergio Ramos’ absence but hardly led by example. The full-back ducked out of the way as Barrenetxea rose above him to score with a looping header.

Part of the problem is personnel but Real, who have conceded 44 goals in the league this season, are woefully unorganised at the back. There’s a lot of work to be done over the summer.

Jesus Vallejo

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Real Madrid player ratings as Brahim Diaz earns a 7 but Jesus Vallejo gets a 2 in 3-1 loss to Real Sociedad

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Real Madrid seem destined to end a disappointing season with a whimper as a 3-1 defeat at Real Sociedad was their 11th of this La Liga campaign.

Zinedine Zidane once again left Gareth Bale out of the matchday squad, starting with bright young talent Brahim Diaz instead while Vinicius Junior made an appearance off the bench.

Brahim impressed with a fine solo effort in the sixth minute to give the away side the lead but Sociedad responded strongly and were rewarded for their efforts.

A superb team goal was rounded off when Willian Jose laid the ball off for Mikel Merino to steer home the equaliser in the 26th minute.

Jesus Vallejo reduced his side to ten men when his hand ball on the line conceded a penalty and earned him a red card. However, Thibaut Courtois was able to deny Willian from the spot.

The second half though saw the hosts take the lead through Joseba Zaldua before Ander Barrenetxea’s towering header added a third.

Here, we rate Madrid’s players.

STARTING XI (4-3-3)

Thibaut Courtois 6 – Made a fine save in the first half before standing his ground with a penalty save. But then watched helplessly as three were put past him.

Dani Carvajal 4 – Barely got forward to support the attack and failed to plug gaps in defence as well.

Jesus Vallejo 2 – So poor was his performance that his sending off for a blatant hand ball on the line was almost respite for a defender in turmoil.

Nacho Fernandes 5 – Good on the ball and the best of the back-line but that’s not saying much.

Marcelo 3 – Inexplicably decided not to compete for a header, merely giving Barrenetxea a boost to head home a third. Poor positioning throughout.

Isco 5 – Had a great chance in the first half but his shot was straight at the keeper. Struggled to create in the final third and was hooked early in the second half.

Casemiro 5 – Made a few contributions defensively but grew frustrated and picked up a needless booking.

Toni Kroos 5 – Retained possession expertly but failed to build any momentum with his passing.

Marco Asensio 4 – Flashes of good play and bursts of acceleration but largely, a whole lot of nothing.

Karim Benzema 6 – Led the line well, setting up some good chances, even bagging the assist for Brahim’s goal. However, only had one shot. Lacked goal threat.

Brahim Diaz 7 – Technically superb and his outstanding individual goal was the best Madrid had to offer. Has a bright future.

SUBS

Luka Modric (for Isco 56′) 4 – Failed to make an impact. Slotted in alongside Kroos and mirrored his passing.

Lucas Vazquez (for Diaz 65′) 4 – Didn’t see much of the ball after coming on apart from the one shot off target.

Vinicius Junior (for Asensio 76′) N/A – Showed great quick feet inside the area but not enough time to make an impact.

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Real Madrid-bound Rodrygo looking forward to hearing Santiago Bernabeu chant his name

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Real Madrid-bound Rodrygo is looking forward to hearing his name chanted at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Brazilian signed for Los Blancos last season and will be joining the squad next month. A Madrid fan since his childhood days, Rodrygo made no attempts to hide his excitement ahead of the big move during his interview with Marca.

The forward admitted that it’s not easy to focus on his game at Santos, with Madrid waiting to claim him. But Rodrygo is determined on ending on a high with his current team.

“I’ve tried to focus solely on Santos during this time. Sure it’s difficult to focus on something other than Real Madrid. Knowing you’re a Real Madrid player and not thinking about it is difficult. I’ve tried to think about Santos and keep growing as a player ahead of coming to Madrid.

“The Santiago Bernabeu is beautiful. I knew the stadium from seeing it on TV and I always wanted to play there one day. I always play at the Bernabeu on the PlayStation. It was a dream come true.

“[The stands] were very tall and very beautiful. I used to imagine this whole stadium singing my name, saying ‘Rodrygo, Rodrygo’ and celebrating my goals,” he concluded.

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