Real Sociedad 0-0 Real Madrid: Stuttering start for LaLiga champions

By Sports Desk September 20, 2020

Real Madrid's LaLiga title defence got off to an underwhelming start on Sunday as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Real Sociedad at the Reale Arena.

Zinedine Zidane's men were belatedly returning to domestic action after their unsuccessful Champions League exploits at the end of last season and had Martin Odegaard in their starting line-up.

The 21-year-old was recalled by Madrid after spending the 2019-20 campaign on loan at Sociedad, yet his former side gave as good as they got in terms of genuine chances.

Although veteran David Silva – signed to replace Odegaard - made his Sociedad debut from the bench after recovering from coronavirus, there was no breakthrough before the final whistle.

Madrid had their hosts under pressure from the outset but did not threaten to capitalise on their dominance until late in the first half.

Alex Remiro was scarcely troubled before the 38th minute, yet Karim Benzema's harrying prompted a rushed pass from the goalkeeper straight to Vinicius Junior, who quickly fed Madrid's number nine. Benzema rounded Remiro and looked certain to score but skewed an off-balance effort across the face of goal.

Remiro's opposite number Thibaut Courtois was far more impressive as Alexander Isak bore down on goal amid a rare Sociedad foray, his effort turned away by the toe of the former Chelsea man.

Courtois was beaten within two minutes of the restart, but Ander Barrenetxea's cushioned volley bounced agonisingly beyond the bottom-right corner.

Ferland Mendy was fortunate to escape a second booking for a rugged challenge on Portu, before Remiro made a meal of Dani Carvajal's 25-yard blast despite convincing stops to keep Benzema and Toni Kroos at bay.

A series of substitutions for the either side - including the arrival of Silva for the hosts and a Madrid debut for Marvin Park - could not prompt the opener.

What does it mean? Dropped Casemiro still key

Madrid are defending champions and have not completed a single signing, so it came as some surprise that Zidane made a big selection call, dropping Casemiro to the bench for the returning Odegaard.

Los Blancos won just one of the three league games Casemiro missed last season, while he was absent for their Copa del Rey exit to Sunday's opponents – a match in which Odegaard netted.

The incoming 21-year-old was key to Zidane's game plan. Odegaard's average position was almost in line with Benzema's as he led the press and contributed two key passes, but the result did not follow and Madrid turned to Casemiro 20 minutes from time.

Merino makes his mark

While it was a mixed night for Odegaard, Mikel Merino - his former midfield partner - shone for La Real. The silky Spain international proved he can do both sides of the game, making two tackles, four clearances, an interception and three blocks, as well as attempting more passes in the opposition half (32), having more touches (65) and competing in more duels (18) than any other team-mate.

Rodrygo the right man?

Madrid have moved on Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez in the transfer window, but the identity of their regular right winger appears no clearer. Rodrygo started in that role but struggled to make an impact, completing neither of his two crosses and a team-low 64 per cent of his overall passes, although he did draw four fouls.

What's next?

It does not get much easier for Madrid as they go to Real Betis on Saturday. The Seville side have six points from two games. Sociedad are at Elche on the same day.

Related items

  • Rumour Has It: Ibrahimovic set for Milan extension, Dybala to renew at Juventus Rumour Has It: Ibrahimovic set for Milan extension, Dybala to renew at Juventus

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be ready to extend his contract at Milan after a fine start to the season. 

    Ibrahimovic returned to the Serie A club in January, extending his deal in August through until the end of the 2020-21 season. 

    However, the veteran striker could be set to remain at the club for longer, per speculation in Italy.



    Ibrahimovic's agent Mino Raiola is already studying a plan to extend the striker's deal at Milan until 2022, according to Corriere della Sera.

    The 39-year-old has scored four goals in two Serie A games for league leaders Milan this season, including a brace in the derby win over rivals Inter at the weekend.

    Ibrahimovic netted 10 goals and provided five assists in 18 league appearances in 2019-20.


    - Unhappy about being left on the bench against Crotone, Paulo Dybala's future at Juventus is again a subject of interest. However, Tuttosport reports the aim is still for the playmaker – who is contracted until 2022 – to renew his deal before January.

    - Barcelona could be set for good news. Goal reports Barcelona are working on new deals for Frenkie de Jong and Clement Lenglet after agreeing to a contract with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Meanwhile, AS says Gerard Pique is ready to accept a pay cut.

    - Phil Jones is yet to play for Manchester United this season and could leave in January. The Sun reports United could demand £20million for the defender, who is contracted until 2023.

    - Maurizio Sarri could be set for a return to coaching. CalcioMercato reports the former Juventus and Chelsea boss is a target for Fiorentina amid pressure on Giuseppe Iachini after the club collected just four points from their opening four Serie A games of the season.

    - Out of contract at Marseille at season's end, Florian Thauvin could be set for a move. Le 10 Sport says Milan are interested in the forward.

    - With Virgil van Dijk out due to a serious knee injury, Liverpool could be looking for a defender in January. Football Insider says Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White remains on the Premier League champions' radar.

  • Ibrahimovic has 'shifted the balance more' in Italy than Ronaldo Ibrahimovic has 'shifted the balance more' in Italy than Ronaldo

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had a greater impact on Italian football than Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former Milan and Juventus head coach Alberto Zaccheroni. 

    The 39-year-old has made a considerable impact since rejoining Milan in January, scoring 11 goals in 20 appearances in the second half of the 2019-20 campaign.

    He has been in equally impressive form this season despite missing almost a month after contracting COVID-19, taking his tally to four goals in just two games with a double against Inter at the weekend. 

    One of the best strikers of his generation, Ibrahimovic spent two years with Milan earlier in his distinguished career, a stint that included securing the Serie A title in 2011. 

    Ronaldo, meanwhile, has been just as prolific since he joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018, scoring 68 goals in 91 appearances across all competitions. 

    Zaccheroni, though, is in no doubt which player has had more influence on Serie A. 

    "I have coached great champions in my career, from [Oliver] Bierhoff to [George] Weah up to Adriano but the only regret I have is that I never trained Ibrahimovic," he told Il Giornale.

    "He is eternal and I still don't understand why he never won the Ballon d'Or.

    "In Italy, he has shifted the balance more than Ronaldo. It is no coincidence that many young players have grown exponentially since his arrival.

    "He doesn't just score. He transmits confidence to all his team-mates, carrying the team on his shoulders in difficult moments."

  • Real Madrid 'should never have let Cristiano Ronaldo leave for Juventus' Real Madrid 'should never have let Cristiano Ronaldo leave for Juventus'

    Cristiano Ronaldo is a "machine of sacrifice" who should never have been allowed to leave Real Madrid, according to Shakhtar Donetsk head coach Luis Castro.

    The six-time Ballon d'Or winner scored a club-record 450 goals for Madrid and won five trophies during his nine years in the Spanish capital.

    He left for Juventus in a mega-money deal in July 2018 and has maintained his impressive form with 68 goals in all competitions, helping his side to successive Serie A titles.

    That includes a return of a combined 69 goals and assists in the Italian top flight since the start of 2018-19 – two more than next best Ciro Immobile at Lazio.

    Ahead of Shakhtar's Champions League Group B opener with Madrid on Wednesday, Castro has questioned the LaLiga giants' decision to let the superstar forward depart.

    "When you have Cristiano on your team you should never let him go. Never," he told Marca.  

    "We are talking about the best, the most effective footballer in the world, a machine, a machine of sacrifice."

    Ronaldo was crowned the world's best player five times at Madrid and once during his spell with Manchester United, where he spent six seasons after joining from Sporting CP. 

    And Castro argued the Portugal international has done enough throughout his career to rightly be considered the greatest player to have ever played the game.

    "I do not like to compare. But yes, for me he is the best," Castro said. "Cristiano has a story behind him that is exemplary. 

    "He moved at just 11 years of age to Lisbon to be a footballer, leaving his home. Cristiano is someone that has risen alone, with a unique determination.

    "For me he is an example for all children. People criticise Ronaldo too much. 'What if he does this, what if he spends so much money on this or the other?'.

    "Yet he responds on the field every game, being aware of where he comes from. 

    "The day they make a Cristiano movie and people see where he really comes from, how he became a footballer, he will be valued much more."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.