The reigning champions were put to the sword by Espanyol, after a stoppage time strike from Gerard Moreno secured victory for the Periquitos at the RCDE Stadium.
Zidane fielded a largely second-string side for this match, despite missing a lot of key players due to injury. That decision came back to haunt the Frenchman, who seemed to have underestimated the quality of Quique Sanchez Flores’ men.
They lacked conviction in every area of the pitch and the lack of experience showed. Casemiro, Dani Caravjal and Cristiano Ronaldo were left out of the team sheet, while Karim Benzema was left on the bench. Instead, Gareth Bale was made to start as a striker and that decision completely backfired.
As things stand, Los Blancos have 51 points from 26 games played. This was their 5th Liga loss of the season and should Valencia defeat Athletic Bilbao tonight, they will move a point clear of Real Madrid to third place.
Keylor Navas: 7.5/10
Could have perhaps done better with the goal. Besides that, he was ever-reliable in goal. He was called into action 6 times before that and he didn’t disappoint on any occasion.
Achraf Hakimi: 7/10
Worked hard on the right flank and wasn’t troubled at all by the Espanyol attack. Made a number of key interceptions and completed all of his 5 attempted takeons. Unfortunately for Real, he couldn’t contribute to his side going forward.
Raphael Varane: 7.5/10
A very good outing from the Frenchman. The Espanyol attack just couldn’t get through him and he dealt everything they threw at him calmly. Didn’t seem to be perturbed one bit and was dominant in the air.
Sergio Ramos: 7.5/10
Was superb in the air and he made a number of key interceptions. A routine performance from the captain on his return to the starting XI. Cut a calm and composed figure and dealt with whatever came his way with ease.
Nacho Fernandez: 6/10
Not his best game in a Real Madrid shirt, but certainly not his worst. He defended well for most of the game, but could have perhaps done better to close down Sergio Garcia’s cross which subsequently led to the goal. Couldn’t form a good enough understanding with Asensio and should have been better going forward.
Marcos Llorente: 7/10
Alongside Mateo Kovacic, the youngster had a good game in central midfield. Made a number of key tackles and broke up some of their attacks. But he seemed to be overwhelmed as the game went on and slowly lost his grip on proceedings as the game went on and he couldn’t contribute at all to his side’s attack.
Mateo Kovacic: 7.5/10
The Croatian had a good game in the center of midfield. He completed all of his 6 takeons, made 4 tackles, distributed the ball well for his teammates and maintained a high passing accuracy going forward. However, he couldn’t contribute with a goal or assist, but was one of Real’s best players on the night.
Lucas Vazquez: 6/10
Was lively on the right wing and took on players a number of times, but could offer nothing concrete in attack. Like the rest of his team, lacked conviction while going forward. A poor night for the Spaniard against his former side.
Started brightly, but his influence soon faded as the game went on. Distributed well and intelligently, but wasn’t nearly as effective in the second half. Missed having a proper striker (or 2) upfront to play with, and Zidane ultimately chose to sacrifice the Spaniard’s creativity in favour of a more direct attacking attacking threat in the form of Benzema. Hauled off in the 69th minute.
Marco Asensio: 6.5/10
Created three good chances for his teammates. Put in a fair few crosses into the box, but nothing could be made of them. The lack of a proper target upfront didn’t make it any easier. Wasn’t able to make the most of this rare start. His influence reduced in the second half and he seemed a bit isolated at times.
Gareth Bale: 6/10
Gareth Bale should not be played as a striker and most certainly not as a lone striker. An away game against Espanyol was not the right time to conduct this experiment and we’re not likely to see this repeated this any time soon.
He tried to be involved as much as he could and even dropped deeper to try and be more involved in the build up. Seemed a bit isolated at time and had a tendency to drift to the wings, which didn’t help their cause. Benzema’s introduction helped, but the duo couldn’t combine effectively.
Karim Benzema: N/A
Was brought in place of Isco in the 69th minute and he set up upfront alongside Gareth Bale, effectively switching the formation to a 4-4-2, one that’s brought Real Madrid some success in recent weeks. Unfortunately he couldn’t make the impact that Zidane hoped for.
Ceballos Fernandez: N/A
Could have done better to prevent the goal. Tracked Moreno’s run but then lost focus and was ball watching, allowing the Spaniard to drift into open space and score the winner.