Gareth Bale Ends Goalless Run to Lead Real Madrid Past Huesca in La Liga

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2018

Real Madrid's Welsh forward Gareth Bale (R) is congratulated by teammate defender Alvaro Odriozola during the Spanish league football match between SD Huesca and Real Madrid CF at the El Alcoraz stadium on December 9, 2018. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANDER GILLENEA/AFP/Getty Images)
ANDER GILLENEA/Getty Images

Real Madrid won their second La Liga match in a row on Sunday, beating last-placed SD Huesca 1-0 on the road. Gareth Bale scored the only goal of the match, his first in the competition since September.

According to OptaJose he went over 800 minutes without a goal in La Liga:

Real were far from their best but held off Huesca relatievely comfortably after taking an early lead, with Thibaut Courtois keeping the clean sheet. The Belgian had one of his best matches for the European champions yet.

The win moved Los Blancos back within five points of Barcelona, who beat Espanyol in the Catalan derby on Saturday.

     

Red-Hot Llorente Will Win Casemiro Battle

Casemiro's injury has been something of a blessing in disguise for Los Blancos, as Marcos Llorente has emerged as a budding star in his place.

In the span of a few weeks he has gone from seemingly on his way out of the club to an automatic starter in front of the defence. His play has been so good that sportswriter Dermot Corrigan believes Casemiro will face a real battle for his starting position when he returns:

Llorente's well-rounded skill set makes him a better fit for Los Blancos. Casemiro is a huge defensive weapon with limited passing range, whereas Llorente can orchestrate things from midfield and take pressure off the likes of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. On top of that, his defence has been exceptional so far and he's seemingly improving with every single match.

The Spaniard is expected to become Casemiro's main backup once the Brazilian returns, but that is far from certain. Solari has leaned heavily on the 23-year-old:

Having the trust of the manager is huge, and Llorente is in a perfect position to remain in front of Casemiro in the pecking order when the latter returns.

   

Keylor Navas Must Push for January Move

Thibaut Courtois had arguably his best match yet as a member of Los Blancos on Sunday, making several highlight-reel saves and keeping the hosts at bay when they pushed for an equaliser in the second half.

AS' Robbie Dunne liked what he saw from the former Chelsea man:

The Belgian has become the clear top choice in goal for Real, with Keylor Navas not playing a minute of La Liga or Champions League football in November.

Previously the choice in the latter competition, he watched from the bench as Real beat AS Roma in Italy. Navas has become an afterthought in Madrid, leading to some end-of-season transfer speculation, per Sergio Santos Chozas of AS.

Star prospect Andriy Lunin has flashed his immense talent on loan at Leganes, and according to Marca's Javi Carrasco he could return in January. Leganes have stuck with Ivan Cuellar as their preferred starter even though he has given up soft goals, like he did during Friday's 1-1 draw against Getafe.

Navas is 31 years old and regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He's wasting away on the Madrid bench, and if he doesn't see playing time in the Champions League there's no point in staying at the club.

Manager Santiago Solari is clearly a fan of Courtois, who is starting to settle in and show why he won a Golden Glove at the World Cup this summer. With his form improving, he's unlikely to lose his spot as the unquestioned starter any time soon.

Real can bring back Lunin in January, and he could take over as the primary goalkeeper in the Copa del Rey. That gives Navas the opportunity to push for a January transfer, and he should take it.

   

What's Next?

Real host CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday. Huesca will take on Villarreal next Sunday.

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