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Five points on Real Madrid - with Spanish football expert Sid Lowe

Posted on 16 October 2017  - 12:00

One of the most acclaimed English-speaking Spanish football experts, Sid Lowe is a font of knowledge of all things La Liga. Not only that, he was at Coliseum Alfonso Perez for Real Madrid's win against Getafe on Saturday. Who better to talk about Tuesday night's Champions League cracker at the Bernabeu?

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sid_lowe Sid Lowe
Spanish football expert

Point 1 - form

Sid: “Madrid didn't win either of their first three home games of the season in La Liga. They had the best part of 80 shots across those three games. They weren’t great, but should have won all three. Since then, they’ve started winning but they didn’t particularly impress against Espanyol (2-0, October 1) and they certainly didn’t impress at Getafe (2-1 on Saturday), although that was off the back of an international break and in the build-up to Spurs, so the context is different. One of the things about Madrid is this is a team with so much variety. If they don’t play well, the chances are that they will find a way through. That’s what made those first three home matches so striking. We’ve seen Madrid not playing well before but they always find a way to win, they have so much depth. Maybe they have a little less depth this season having lost James (Rodriguez, on loan at Bayern Munich) and Morata (Alvaro Morata, to Chelsea) but they didn’t find a way through in those games. Of course, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale have had injuries and Cristiano Ronaldo was suspended at the start of the season, so that didn’t help.”

Below: Zinedine Zidane

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Point 2 - tactics

Sid: “Zinedine Zidane (manager) has played 4-4-2 a lot but Getafe was just about the clearest, most basic, most rigid 4-4-2 I’ve seen with two central midfielders, two wide men and two up top. It was a bit sluggish, I thought. 4-3-3 was their standard set-up with Benzema, Ronaldo and Bale up front but every time one of those three was missing, Zidane would always add an extra midfielder. The formation last season was largely three across midfield, Casemiro in the middle, Toni Kroos slightly off the left and Luka Modric slightly off the right and then what he has with Isco is that extra player who links midfield and attack. What Isco has found so difficult is that his natural position as a number 10 didn’t really exist, it wasn’t in the structure but when Bale was injured last season, that changed the structure and gave Isco a place in the team. I would anticipate against Spurs Casemiro deep, Modric and Kroos either side, Isco with a certain degree of freedom in midfield and then Ronaldo and Benzema up front.”

Below: Ronaldo celebrates the winner against Getafe

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Point 3 - Ronaldo

Sid: “If you see his celebration for the goal (the winner) against Getafe it was very much unlike him, probably more relief than anything else as it was his first La Liga goal this season, although that statistic needs a large asterisk because he’s missed games. He went through a little of this last season until it really mattered and then we saw a real shift where he was the main man. His record in quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of the Champions League is ludicrous! How is he playing? I’d say he looks a little frustrated but this is Ronaldo! It will happen for him. He’s evolved over the years and as a centre forward, the understanding of where to be, he’s brilliant. He’s become a great, great number nine.”

Below: Luka Modric in action

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Point 4 - Bale and Modric

Sid: “Gareth Bale is out. Zidane said the other day that it wasn’t just the one injury, it was two. It’s a pity because when he’s been at his best he’s been absolutely fantastic, he just hasn’t had the continuity we all wish he could have. He scored a wonderful goal at Real Sociedad and then that volley at Borussia Dortmund but he’s out and that must be a huge blow for him. Luka looks to me like he’s not quite at 100 per cent yet, but he has been brilliant for the best part of a year-and-a-half. He has those little shuttle runs that break through lines and make things happen. He has real recognition now. An opposition player told me last season after a game against Modric and Kroos that you know they are really talented, so you lay into them and they don’t even flinch. They are tough as well. You think it’s all about technique, but you try to lay one on Modrid or Kroos and they are like ‘yes, what?’ and I was really struck by that.”

Below: Christian Eriksen celebrates the winner against Bournemouth

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Point 5 - Spurs

Sid: “This is Real Madrid, so they see this as a group they should come through but no doubt they looked at this and thought you don’t want a group with two (other) strong teams. You can finish second and still go through. Having won the first couple of games in the group and won in Dortmund, the focus from Madrid is finishing top of the group. There is definitely recognition that Spurs are a good side and this is a proper game. It’s also significant that they are going to play at Wembley in the second of the two group games. Real Madrid have never played there and genuinely from a Spanish point of view, Wembley is a big deal. There is quite a lot of excitement around these games.”