Blog post

Real Madrid after Casemiro beat Celta Vigo and show why they are La Liga favorites again

Real Madrid cruised to a comfortable victory over Celta Vigo, 4-1, in the second week of the La Liga season and the club’s first game since Casemiro left for Manchester United. Karim Benzema scored the first for Madrid and Iago Aspas equalized but then Madrid activated it and prevented Celta Vigo from returning.

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Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and Federico Valverde all scored in what would be an emphatic statement of intent from Real Madrid to warn the rest of La Liga. ESPN’s Alex Kirkland has a reaction from Abanca-Balaídos in Spain.

JUMP TO: Player Ratings | Better/worse performers | Highlights & Moments | Postgame Quotes | Key Statistics | Upcoming meetings

Quick reaction

No Casemiro, no problem

The Real Madrid midfielder was still going to come under scrutiny in the first outing of the post-Casemiro era, following confirmation of the midfielder’s £70m move to Manchester United a day earlier.

Here at Balaidos, it was Aurélien Tchouameni – recruited at an even greater cost earlier this summer – who stepped in to reassure Madrid fans that there is life after this legendary midfield trio by Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.

Kroos didn’t feature here, absent with the flu, but Modric – who was still improving at 36 – looked majestic alongside Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga. He put Madrid ahead with a signature curling shot before half-time and then played a visionary pass for Vinicius Junior to make it 3-1 after the break.

There was also a lot to like about Tchouameni’s performance. The young French midfielder seemed to gain confidence and authority as the game went on.

That third goal started with Tchouameni blocking inside Real Madrid’s penalty area, before Modric and Vinicius did the rest – and it was his midfield run that made Real Madrid’s fourth goal. Madrid, finished by Fede Valverde.

There are bigger challenges ahead and, like any young player, Tchouameni will have good days and bad days, but it was a very encouraging start.

Centre-back dilemma for Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti has made it clear that last year’s favorite centre-back pairing David Alaba and Eder Militao start this season as first-choice despite Antonio Rudiger arriving on a free transfer from Chelsea.

Militao made another high-profile mistake here, however – handling the ball for Celta’s first-half penalty equalizer – while Rudiger came off the bench to grab the attention with another physically dominant display.

Rudiger’s La Liga debut at Almeria last weekend wasn’t flawless but you wonder how long Ancelotti can continue to omit a player with his character, experience and athleticism.

A wild run up the pitch, before exchanging passes with Karim Benzema, led to Madrid being awarded a second penalty of the night, which was missed by substitute Eden Hazard.

Madrid’s squad this year is brimming with talent, and Rudiger has already shown unexpected versatility, occupying both full-back positions, but he’ll want to play further for too long with Militao most likely at risk of giving up.

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Aspas Celta main man again

While Madrid risk relying too heavily on Benzema to score the goals they need to challenge for the trophies again, Celta’s prospects this season rest entirely on the shoulders of Iago Aspas.

The 35-year-old local boy and club legend scored 18 league goals last year – only Benzema scored more – and after the summer departures of creative and attacking strikers like Brais Mendez and Nolito, Aspas will have even more responsibility for both. providing and finishing this time.

New signing Goncalo Paciencia has done well here as a target man, while on loan Carles Perez has been knocked off the bench, but when you look at the Celta squad only Aspas looks likely to come in the two digits.

He’s still capable of shining – a run on the spur of half-time saw him blast past Modric and break through before running out of steam – and Celta have talented players elsewhere on the pitch like Javi Galan and Fran Beltran, but they are also uneven and disturbingly inconsistent.

Whether Celta succeed or fail this year will depend – as they have for much of the last decade – on how far Aspas can lead them.

Player ratings

Real Madrid: Thibaut Courtois, 6. Dani Carvajal, 6. David Alaba, 7. Eder Militao, 5. Ferland Mendy, 6. Aurélien Tchouameni, 8. Eduardo Camavinga, 7. Luka Modric, 8. Fede Valverde, 7. Vinicius Junior, 8. Karim Benzema, 7 years old.

Subtitles: Antonio Rudiger, 7. Dani Ceballos, 6. Lucas Vazquez, 6. Eden Hazard, 5. Marco Asensio, 6.

Celta Vigo: Agustin Marchesin, 7. Hugo Mallo, 7. Joseph Aidoo, 6. Unai Nunez, 6. Javi Galan, 7. Renato Tapia, 5. Fran Beltran, 7. Oscar Rodriguez, 6. Franco Cervi, 7. Iago Aspas, 7. Goncalo Paciencia, 6.

Subtitles: Carles Perez, 6 years old. Gabriel Veiga, 6 years old. Luca de la Torre, 6 years old.

Best and Worst Performers

BEST: Luka Modric, Real Madrid.

Exceptional. Assisted the young midfielders alongside him, scored the goal of the game and created the crucial third for Vinicius which put Madrid out of sight.

Worst: Eder Militao, Real Madrid.

His performance – and especially his concentration – needs to improve, otherwise Rudiger will soon be in the squad.

Highlights and Moments

Karim Benzema, LaLiga’s best player last season, scored his first goal of the 2022-23 campaign.

Celta Vigo pulled one back thanks to an Iago Aspas penalty, but Luka Modric also stepped in.

Modric scored one of his signature goals from outside the box, later earning applause from Celta Vigo fans when he was substituted later in the game.

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Luka Modric scores Real Madrid’s goal in the 41st minute.

While Celta Vigo kept the game close in the first half and the teams went to the break with Madrid leading just 2-1, the second half was a very different story.

When Madrid made it 3-1 on a magnificent finish from Vinicius Junior, it was pretty much over.

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Vinicius Junior rounds the keeper to score for Real Madrid in the 56th minute.

After the game: What managers, players said

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti: “We are happy. We played well. We had good individual performances from players who didn’t play a lot, they are new. Tchouameni played very well, and Camavinga. We showed a lot of energy on the pitch. and the performance has been good, we are confident in the future, that’s for sure.”

Ancelotti: “We have players who can play in different positions, that helps the team. I think the team we have is a very good team, I have no doubts about that.”

Ancelotti on Aurélien Tchouameni: “Of course, you have to think about a transition… The veterans understand this very well, because the youngsters also showed last season that they deserve a place. So it’s important to manage the dressing room well, to understand the veterans and the patience of young people.”

Ancelotti on Luka Modric: “He is immortal. Luka is always ready, he is always prepared, he always plays well. The goal he scored changed the game. Until the goal, the match was equal, competitive, Celta pressed us well “, it was difficult for us in possession. In the second half they lowered their intensity, and we played the ball well from the back and our transitions were spectacular.”

Luka Modric to a standing ovation from Celta Vigo fans: “It’s a beautiful thing, it makes me very happy when the fans recognize your work, I can only thank them.”

Modric on Casemiro’s departure: “It’s a shame, we made history with him and he was fundamental. We will miss him a lot as a person and as a player, and I’m sad to see him go. But that’s part of football and we have to go on without him.”

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

  • Karin Benzema scored his 19th penalty kick in La Liga. Only six active players have scored more penalties than the Frenchman in La Liga: Raúl García, Negredo, Parejo, Iago Aspas, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

  • Since the start of last season, no team has taken more penalties than Real Madrid (13, tied with Levante) in La Liga.

  • Iago Aspas scored his 136th La Liga goal, the fourth among active players. He is also now tied for the 10th most shots on goal of all time in La Liga with 31. Next on the list is David Villa with 32.

  • Luka Modric scored his 12th career La Liga goal from outside the box. Of Modric’s 23 La Liga goals, 12 have come off the beaten path. Since Luka Modric joined Real Madrid in 2012-13, the only players with more off-the-beaten-track goals in La Liga are Lionel Messi (67), Antoine Griezmann (25), Cristiano Ronaldo (24), Dani Parejo (18 ) and Iago Aspas. (16).

  • Federico Valverde scored his first competitive club goal since his 98th-minute winner against Barcelona in the SuperCup semi-final on January 12.

  • Aurélien Tchouameni had 13 recoveries. Casemiro, who led the LaLiga side in recoveries last term with 230, had just one game with more than 13 recoveries for Real Madrid in La Liga last season (14 against Getafe in January 2022).


Real Madrid: The LaLiga title holders will play at Espanyol on August 28 (watch LIVE on ESPN+) ahead of the home opener at the newly refurbished Bernabeu against Real Betis on September 3.

Celta Vigo: They are heading towards Girona on Friday August 26 (watch LIVE on ESPN+) then they host Cadiz a week later.