Gareth Bale, Real Madrid Demolish Viktoria Plzen 5-0 in Champions League

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2018

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates with teammates after scoring during the UEFA Champions League group G football match Viktoria Plzen v Real Madrid in Plzen, Czech Republic on November 7, 2018. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)
JOE KLAMAR/Getty Images

Real Madrid moved on to nine points in Group G of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League after beating Viktoria Plzen 5-0 at the Doosan Arena in the Czech Republic on Wednesday.  

Karim Benzema scored twice, while Casemiro, Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos added goals to give caretaker boss Santiago Solari a third win in a row in all competitions.


It's Time to Move on from Reckless Sergio Ramos

He's got 11 major trophies to his credit and has been a rock at both club and international level. However, there comes a point when Real have to consider moving on from skipper Sergio Ramos.

The time is now to seek out a replacement for the 32-year-old centre-back. Specifically, Real would be wise to call time because of the reckless side of Ramos' game.

This side showed itself again when the veteran caught Plzen defender Milan Havel with an elbow when the hosts were on top early in the first half. The blow appeared deliberate to some, but was at the very least highly controversial:

The Sportsman @TheSportsman

💪 When Sergio Ramos gets near anyone on the pitch... https://t.co/amTVFA6aCw

Coral @Coral

For the first time in his career as far as we can remember, Sergio Ramos just did something very unpleasant to an opponent, but pretended it was an accident. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt this time. https://t.co/x3oM50IbdJ

Of course, this is far from the first time Ramos' rugged style has been called into question during his career. His challenge on Liverpool's Mohamed Salah in last season's final raised the ire of many.

Ramos hasn't been immune from criticism from Real supporters recently, but the former Sevilla star defended himself by saying the hecklers "fill my rucksack with stones," per Sport.

Those words have already worked against Ramos following his clash with Havel:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

All those rocks in Ramos' rucksack effecting his arm movement perhaps

Aside from controversial challenges, Ramos' general defending is beginning to look shaky:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Madrid still wobbly at back, Ramos AWOL again and Odriozola has to come across to cover on other side of defence.

There are even questions about his conduct away from the pitch, since "there are also those who feel that Ramos holds too much power and sway with regards to how the club is run," according to Marca's Santiago Siguero.

He also noted, "It's no coincidence that after some rather pointed words, when the defender was asked about the potential appointment of Antonio Conte at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Florentino Perez's pursuit of the Italian quickly came to an end."

If his skills are deteriorating, Los Blancos have little excuse not to move on from Ramos. There is ample cover at his position, where the versatile Nacho has grown in importance and France World Cup winner Raphael Varane remains a considerable talent.


Real Still Own the Best Midfield in the Champions League

Cristiano Ronaldo's goals weren't the only reason Real have won this tournament the last three seasons running. They've also owned the competition because of the most-balanced midfield in Europe.

It's a unit comprised of Casemiro, Kroos and Luka Modric. The group is still the best in the Champions League thanks to the way each player perfectly complements the other.

Casemiro remains an indispensable member of Real's midfield.
Casemiro remains an indispensable member of Real's midfield.MICHAL CIZEK/Getty Images

Casemiro is an elite holding player, the destructive ball-winner who anchors midfield and shields the defence. Modric also plays a withdrawn role, but the 33-year-old is the quintessential deep-lying playmaker.

Possession runs through Modric and Kroos, although the latter operates further forward in areas where his technique, vision and shooting power can change games.

Modric was on the bench against Plzen, but the other two members of this trio excelled. Casemiro got a rare goal, heading in from a Kroos corner, with the latter showcasing his creative radar from the start:

Kiyan Sobhani @KiyanSo

Toni Kroos has 6 key passes already. Yeesh.

Kroos had pulled the strings earlier when he set Benzema free to open the scoring. There was still time for the Germany international to add an exquisite goal to his night's work when he lofted in a delightful chip to make it 5-0 in the 67th minute.

When Kroos and Casemiro are supported by Modric, Los Merengues boast a complete midfield. It's good enough to make them a contender for a fourth trophy in as many years, even without Ronaldo.


What's Next?

Real will aim for the group lead against AS Roma in the Italian capital next time out in the competition on Tuesday, November 27. Plzen will face CSKA Moscow away on the same night.

Before then, Los Blancos have away trips to Celta Vigo and Eibar in La Liga, while Plzen face Pribram and Slovan Liberec in the Czech First League.