This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Real Madrid fans ended up going through some genuine drama this weekend when Levante were welcomed to Santiago Bernabeu.
Los Blancos did take all three points in the end but Zinedine Zidane’s decision to give Casemiro and Sergio Ramos their rest almost cost them the game on Saturday.
The clash couldn’t have started better for Real.
By the time the teams were sent to the locker room for half-time, the Galacticos were already 3-0 up and seemingly with another impressive victory in the bag. But Levante had other ideas.
In the second half, it was all about the guests and their efforts to claw their way back into the game, fighting to salvage a nigh-on miraculous point.
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Even though they somehow managed to reduce the gap to 3-2, they just couldn’t muster enough strength for one final push and one final goal to get the draw on the night. Still, they were close and Real completely crumbled defensively in that second half.
And taking into consideration that Zidane decided to rest Casemiro and Ramos by taking them off early, it really isn’t that big of a surprise.
Both Casemiro and Ramos were subbed off on the hour mark as Zidane didn’t want to risk them sustaining an injury. On paper, that’s fair enough.
It’s something the Frenchman acknowledged in his post-match press conference and looking at the players who are already sidelined for Real Madrid, it really didn’t seem worth the risk. But on the other hand, that single decision almost cost them the entire game.
Of course, the Galacticos conceded one goal before the duo were taken off but the remainder of the second half was extremely difficult for them as a whole. Five of Levante’s eight shots came after the substitution and resulted in one additional goal.
This becomes more visible when we take into account their contribution to the team prior to them leaving the pitch. Casemiro tallied two tackles, one interception and three clearances while Ramos had one tackle, one interception and two clearances.
Quite clearly, both were doing their part in the defensive phase of the game.
The decision to take them off weakened the XI significantly and even though Zidane was just playing it safe, it was still a substitution that almost lost them the three points on Saturday.
That they got over the line was more by luck than judgement.