With Benzema back from injury, Real Madrid need to find form again

With Benzema back from injury, Real Madrid need to find form again

Karim Benzema missed a late penalty as Real Madrid and Osasuna drew 1-1 to end Real Madrid’s undefeated LaLiga season.

In spite of making his first appearance after suffering a thigh injury, Benzema failed to score from the penalty spot in the 79th minute, ending Madrid’s six-game winning streak in LaLiga to start the season.

Just before halfway, Vinicius Junior gave Madrid the lead, but Kike Garcia matched it with a spectacular header from the edge of the area past backup goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, who was filling in for Thibaut Courtois, who was forced to leave the game late. With El Clasico scheduled for October 16, Madrid and Barcelona are tied at the top of the LaLiga standings with 19 points each.

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1. The initial flaw in Madrid is not the worst

Real Madrid entered this match with a record of nine games played in LaLiga, the Champions League, and the UEFA Super Cup, and nine victories. This season, Real Madrid had been nearly unbeatable. An unwelcome slip-up and an early warning that the reigning Spanish and European champions are not invincible, a 1-1 draw at home against an awkward opponent in Osasuna is hardly a catastrophe.

There are many contributing elements that can be used to explain why Madrid wasn’t exactly at full strength in this situation. Their finest player, Karim Benzema, has only recently returned from injury, while Luka Modric and Thibaut Courtois were both unavailable (more on both of them shortly). As a result of so many players traveling with their nations during the international break, the team is frequently lethargic after the break.

The outcome puts Madrid and a resurgent Barcelona level on 19 points at the top of the table and sets up a potentially exciting two-team title chase. On Oct. 16, both teams will have the chance to score an early goal in El Clasico here at the Santiago Bernabeu. Madrid should be back to its full speed by then.

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2. Is Benzema ready to get back?

In Benzema’s absence, Real Madrid hadn’t exactly struggled to score goals. The club had scored 11 goals in four games since the Ballon d’Or elect had a thigh injury against Celtic on September 6: three against Celtic, four against Mallorca, and two each against RB Leipzig and Atletico Madrid. However, Benzema is “The Boss” and, as such, it came as no surprise to see him leading the line against Osasuna on Sunday morning’s front page of Diario AS.

In minute 37, Benzema came close to celebrating his comeback with a shockingly close miss after taking Vinicius Junior’s cross first time on the volley. A greater opportunity to do so came in the second half when Madrid was given a penalty for David Garcia’s push on Benzema. However, he failed to score from the spot on a rare occasion, shooting high, off the bar, and over.

Soon enough, we’ll see “the same Karim as always,” according to coach Carlo Ancelotti. Madrid will be hoping Benzema is back to his best by the time they play Barca because they have winnable games this week against Shakhtar Donetsk and Getafe.

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3. Courtois cannot be replaced.

Being the finest in the industry’s backup goalkeeper can’t be simple. Andriy Lunin had to wait his turn, put in a lot of effort in training, and be patient because Thibaut Courtois was practically always present last season — starting 36 of the 38 league games on the path to Madrid’s championship and playing every match of Madrid’s historic Champions League run.

Given that Courtois was out because of a back injury until the day of the game, this was a unique opportunity. On his infrequent appearances for Madrid, Lunin has frequently appeared anxious and unsure, as if he were overly eager to make a good impression. In the 28th minute, Jon Moncayola’s confident long-range effort was stopped cleanly by his first save. Lunin had little control over Kike Garcia’s brilliant-headed equalizer that looped up and over his head, but there was a tense moment afterward when the goalkeeper hesitated to advance for a cross and nearly found himself in the danger zone.

Given how little we have seen of Lunin wearing a Real Madrid jersey, it might be unfair to make a final judgment on his skills, but Courtois can’t come back soon enough.

Author: Bobby Parker