Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois were the standout players for Real Madrid as they came from behind to hold Valencia to a 1-1 draw.
Much of the game was a sparring contest before it sparked to life in the final 20 minutes or so. Carlos Soler handed Valencia a rather deserved lead when he converted from Daniel Wass’s cutback. However, Real Madrid had the last word in the match, with Karim Benzema being their saviour once again.
This time around, though, he had Thibaut Courtois to thank, with the Belgian goalkeeper seeing his header from Gareth Bale’s corner being parried by Jaume Domenech, with the ball then falling kindly to Benzema, who made no mistake in tapping the ball into the net.
The result meant Real Madrid are still only behind arch rivals Barcelona by one goal difference ahead of the much-anticipated first El Clasico of the season. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Zinedine Zidane’s men.
Thibaut Courtois: 8/10
A solid display by Courtois, who made an exceptional save to deny Ferran Torres in the second half. Distribution still is not one of his strong suits, but that was only a minor dampener in an otherwise superb performance, the highlight of which was the thumping header in the lead-up to Karim Benzema’s goal.
Dani Carvajal: 5/10
A difficult evening for Carvajal, who was sub-par on both ends of the pitch. Found wanting for end product in the final third, quite surprising for a player of his class. At the back, the Spaniard suffered from a lack of support from the winger in front of him, meaning he was double teamed at times by Jose Gaya and Carlos Soler.
Raphael Varane: 7/10
Decent once again. With Torres and Rodrigo Moreno deployed as the strike partnership, Varane needed to be on his toes all the time, which turned out to be the case for much of the game. His pace was quite the asset in his battle with the pacy duo, who were negated quite well.
Sergio Ramos: 7/10
Back into the side after being rested in the midweek, Ramos gave a good account of himself in a testing atmosphere. Held his nerve with typical ease, particularly in the second half, when Valencia saw much more of the ball than they had in the first 45 minutes. Needs to keep this up against Barcelona.
Back into the starting lineup for the first time since recovering from an injury, Nacho was in fine touch, especially when dealing with the double charge of Daniel Wass and Jaume Costa. Did not create a great deal of threat in the final third, apart from a couple of neat efforts.
Federico Valverde: 7/10
The enforcer in the middle of the park, Valverde was in his elements once again, imposing himself with aplomb against a tough opponent. There was a smattering of rash challenges here and there, but his game-high seven recoveries were crucial to ensure Real Madrid retained control in midfield. Has become such a crucial player for Los Blancos.
Luka Modric: 5/10
Underwhelming from Modric, who was not quite at his best against Valencia. While the Croat started off well, he slowly faded as the game wore on, struggling to break down the Valencia defence, which was his primary task. Will need to improve drastically if he starts at Camp Nou on Wednesday.
Toni Kroos: 7.5/10
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 15, 2019
Another player who started after being rested in the Champions League. Kroos orchestrated play beautifully, completing a staggering 97.2 percent of his attempted passes. Like many of his teammates, there was a dip in his levels post the interval, but he still carried a lot of threat with his passes.
Illustrating his growing role in the Real Madrid first-team squad, Isco started against Valencia. But, the Spaniard was just not influential enough, failing to make any sort of impact. His unwillingness to put in the hard yards off the ball also left much to be desired. An opportunity missed.
Rodrygo has been a breath of fresh air in the Real Madrid first-team setup this season. However, the young Brazilian was far from his best against Valencia, perhaps due to being overworked. Never quite looked like he was going to make an impact.
Karim Benzema: 8/10
Far too many times over the last 18 months, Benzema has been the player to save Real Madrid’s blushes, and he did exactly that against Valencia as well. Ran himself into the ground off the ball, making numerous recoveries over the course of the game before making the runs into the Valencia box.
Benzema also ended up making a tangible contribution, netting the equaliser after the ball kindly fell to him following Courtois’s header. Where would Real Madrid be without him?
Vinicius Jr.: 5/10
On for Rodrygo, Vinicius simply continued from where his compatriot had left off. Did not pick the right pass at times and struggled to impose himself on the game during his cameo.
Gareth Bale: 5/10
Introduced alongside Vinicius, Bale too struggled to make much of an impact, although it was his corner that eventually found its way to Benzema, via Courtois.
Luka Jovic: N/A
A late substitution, Jovic did not have time to make much a impact.