‘Real Madrid go top without a goalscorer or a Galactico’, read one headline in Marca as a 0-2 victory at Levante helped Zinedine Zidane’s men to the top of the pile on Sunday.
Los Blancos’ forwards, in the shape of Vinicius Jr. and Karim Benzema, did score the goals to bag the three points, as the Brazilian did in the midweek win over Real Valladolid, but it was more a sense of a stubborn defence helping Madrid secure the points in both matches.
Thibaut Courtois was forced into a string of fine saves against Levante at the weekend, as he was against Valladolid, as Madrid made it three clean sheets from four matches to start the season. Some said ‘no hay gol’ in this Madrid team – but do they really need a player to score 20-plus goals in LaLiga this season if the team is so tight at the back?
Courtois has been key but Madrid’s back four, helped by Casemiro in midfield, has played its part. On Sunday Zidane also travelled without the injured Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola, with Nacho filling in at right-back. Lucas Vázquez also did the same job towards the back of last season.
As with last season, this is a Madrid team that is hard to break down and it is a Madrid team that has the ability to not play well and to win. That is not a bad trait to have, and a quality that guided Madrid to the title last season.
Defensive stability is a trait that may be frowned on at a club like Real Madrid, however. The slender 1-0 home win over Real Valladolid in midweek would have usually brought the boo-boys out had the match been played in front of the public at the Bernabéu, but with no such problem in the current climate, the victory was very much seen as three points in the bag and job done.
And with no incomings before the close of the transfer window, it looks like Madrid fans may have to make do, or at least have patience with, slender, hard-fought wins. With Marco Asensio back and Eden Hazard awaiting for a return to action, there is still a hope for more attacking football, but while the defence is so strong, there is no reason to panic just yet.