Real Madrid lose to Real Sociedad 2 – 4 (Marcelo, Rodrygo, Nacho; Odegaard, Isak x 2, Merino) and are eliminated from the Copa del Rey. Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, post-game quotes, tactical review, and a lot more.
In a bizarrely off-colour performance from Real Madrid — who have been so good in the past few months (or at the very least, efficient to get results and secure themselves defensively) — Zidane’s men were absolutely cooked tonight at the Bernabeu.
Some of that will have to do with Zidane’s decision to make rotations (and even then, the timing of that decision, in a much-anticipated quarter-final game against one of the best teams in Spain was questionable). James Rodriguez was unearthed and put into the midfield-three alongside Toni Kroos and Fede Valverde. Nacho and Marcelo started on both flanks. Brahim Diaz was rewarded for his good form.
Even those names should be enough to put in a good performance. Zidane didn’t field fringe amateurs tonight. If Nacho, Marcelo, and James are going to be considered squad players, then these are games you expect them to slot in and give Real Madrid important contributions. But something was off. For the first time in a long time under Zidane, the transition defense looked bad. The space behind Nacho was vulnerable. Over and over again, Mikel Oyarzabal would make an off-ball run behind him, but was looked off. And if he wasn’t, then the ever-spread-thin Eder Militao would have to come over and make an important interception.
Nacho himself didn’t have his best game positionally, and James — deployed as the right CM — was rarely deep enough to cover or help out. The entire transition defense just melted without Casemiro tonight.
On Real Sociedad’s opening goal — apart from its freakish bounces and deflection — Toni Kroos gradually decided to stop tracking Martin Odegaard’s run:
Offensively, Real Madrid were not creating much. The first real chance came from a James Rodriguez stinger from outside of the box in the 36th. And while the offense was fluid and there were moving parts (which contributed to the defensive issues), the main (and only) consistent threat was Vinicius, who was torching Gorosabel all night. He was able to dribble past his marker over and over again and find room for a cross or a shot. He also scored one disallowed goal in the second half, and set up Rodrygo’s goal to make it 2 – 4.
Alexander Isak was on fire tonight (as he has been in the last few matches for La Real), but Real Madrid didn’t make it that difficult for him. On Real Sociedad’s second goal of the game, Ramos completely looked him off and left him open (probably thinking Marcelo was in position to cover):
Real Madrid never truly looked like they were in control, or able to mount a legitimate comeback. Oddly, towards the end, Real Sociedad’s defense surprisingly crumbed and left white shirts open in the box — contributing to a late push from Zidane’s men.
There is a lot to unpack on tonight’s podcast, namely: Zidane’s decisions and reactions, the performances of Nacho, Marcelo, and James, and a lot more. Stay tuned.