6—Villarreal Are the Real Deal
Although the Yellow Submarine was powering at full speed ahead before the visit of Real Madrid with three victories from three, there were still open questions as to how good the team actually were, after a year in the second division.
Victories against Almeria, Valladolid and Osasuna were contests Villarreal could be expected to win, if the fixtures were scattered over the season. Instead, the three opponents were racked up in line and sent flying like pool balls.
However, a speedy, dynamic, counterattacking Villarreal team stretched Real Madrid to the breaking point to prove that those early results were the sign of a fine side in the making. There is no reason why the East Coast club cannot be the big cheese come the end of the season in terms of the hunt for the European places.
5—Too Many Half-Fit Footballers for Real Madrid
Villarreal have shown themselves, so far, this season to be a superbly drilled, fast and furious football team. This is why Saturday’s game was not the time for Carlo Ancelotti to throw a some half-fit players onto the pitch.
Isco had been struggling all week with an ankle knock. Asier Illarramendi was making his league debut in the centre of the park. What’s more, a certain Gareth Bale was, perhaps, not in the best shape to help cover a very exposed right flank for Real Madrid.
Throw a slovenly, somnambulant Karim Benzema into the mix, and it was no surprise to see Real Madrid huffing and puffing throughout Saturday’s draw in El Madrigal.
4—Diego Lopez Is Still Madrid’s No. 1
If Casillas is set to be in goal for Real Madrid in the side’s Champions League matches, then the decision is an act of charity from Carlo Ancelotti. With head leading the heart, then Lopez should be starting in Tuesday’s clash against Galatasaray as Saturday’s performance against Villarreal was another solid display from the keeper.
Although the Italian manager is looking for an easy life by potentially restoring the club captain between the sticks, it is Lopez who deserves to be in goal on a permanent basis, based on current form.
3—Real Madrid’s Dodgy Defence
Real Madrid’s most entertaining moments in history have come when the philosophy has been not to worry too much about goals being conceded, as more can easily be scored at the other end.
It looks like another phase may be steaming into view, as the defence is a bit of a shambles at the moment, meaning the forward line is going to be kept busy if Madrid are to sustain any kind of title charge.
Villarreal clearly learned lessons from how played Madrid in the first match of the season, by simply charging through the centre of the visitors’ defence and completely befuddling Pepe and Sergio Ramos in the process.
2—Cristiano Ronaldo Looking Relieved
For much of the time that Bale was on the pitch, Ronaldo cannot have enjoyed the experience in El Madrigal. It was the expensive newcomer who had scored Madrid’s opener, had a rocket flying over the bar and had a sensational sprint past an opposition defender.
These are all hallmarks of the Portuguese player, whose best tricks were being usurped by the former Spurs man. As soon as the Welshman was brought off, Ronaldo had the pitch to himself and looked considerably happier about that, too.
1—Gareth Bale Did Enough on His Debut
Of all the matches to start in, this season, the clash against an effervescent Villarreal was always going to be a challenge. So it is no wonder that Bale flitted in and out of the game in his 60 minutes in El Madrigal.
However, the Welshman did more than enough to keep Madrid fans happy with the team’s opening goal, a cracking long shot and a burst of pace to blast past a fullback towards the end of his run-out against Villarreal.
With the transfer deal, presentation, opening training sessions and first minutes for Madrid now out of the way and having gone so well, to boot, Bale is going to be a very chirpy footballer in the weeks to come.