Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid team maintained their 100% record in 2022/23 by seeing off Espanyol thanks to a late brace from Karim Benzema. That came after Joselu canceled out Vinícius Júnior’s goal in the first half.
The game was one which was won in the midfield and with some smart attacking movements at both ends to make the difference in front of goal, even if Espanyol ended up with central defender Leandro Cabrera between the sticks.
Here are three stats that help to understand the game:
2018/19: The last time Real Madrid won their three opening LaLiga matches
It may seem no mean feat for Real Madrid to have racked up nine points from a possible nine at this stage of the season, but it’s far less common than you might think. This season has been particularly tricky given that building works at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu mean that Almería, Celta Vigo and Espanyol have all been disposed of away from home.
The last time Real Madrid got off to such a strong start, Getafe, Girona and Leganés were the victims who fell to Julen Lopetegui’s side in what ultimately turned out to be a disappointing campaign. Before that, it was 2016/17 when the winning streak went on for four games.
Should Betis be disposed of in Chamartín next Saturday, it would be the joint-best start to a season since 2009/10 when Manuel Pellegrini’s team made it five in a row before falling to defeat to Sevilla on matchday six in early October.
This is a strong start for Real Madrid and one which has already opened up a cushion over Barcelona, Atlético Madrid and Sevilla, with all of last season’s top four already having dropped at least two points. That margin was what proved so crucial to resting and rotating key players in the run in with the focus turned to Europe. It could prove to be just as beneficial this time around, particularly with a winter World Cup making this season unusually long.
0.4 xA: Aurélien Tchouaméni shows how he stands apart from Casemiro
Tchouaméni has recorded 0.4 xA in four games, with this performance against Espanyol being his most productive yet with 0.28 xA also giving him his first assist for Vinícius Júnior’s goal.
What is even more impressive is that the xA tally from Tchouaméni’s opening four games is the same as Casemiro across his last 12 games in a Real Madrid shirt. Effectively, his xA in the early stages is three times higher than the man he is determined to replace.
Ball progression was always one of the differential factors when comparing the two players and it is already being made clear. His pass accuracy was the highest on the team at 95% and with 69 completed passes came second only to Toni Kroos for successful passes. It reflects his growing influence on the game in the middle.
It was also a sign of the changing times as Real Madrid ended with a midfield of Tchouaméni, Eduardo Camavinga and Dani Ceballos on the pitch. Last season, Ceballos had to wait until matchday 27 to feature in three consecutive league games and played only 18 minutes across the three. This time, he has been a substitute again but has done so by matchday three and was influential in seeing Benjamin Lecomte sent off in injury time.
94 minutes, 34 seconds: Joselu’s minutes per goal against Real Madrid
Given that Joselu averaged 10 goals per 90 minutes in a Real Madrid shirt, his record against the club is perhaps unsurprising. The issue there being that his two goals in two appearances came in just 18 minutes of first team action (six against Almería and 12 against Ponferradina in the Copa del Rey).
Since departing the Bernabéu, where he also recorded 40 goals in 73 games for Castilla, he has not been afraid to come up against Los Blancos. With this strike at the RCDE Stadium, he has scored seven in nine meetings.
He scored two as a substitute on his first game against the club for Deportivo La Coruña in 2016 and has since scored for both Alavés and, now, Espanyol. Unfortunately for the 32-year-old striker, his goals haven’t counted for much. Only once has he been on the winning team against Real Madrid, a 2-1 win for Alavés at Mendizorroza in November 2020. That’s the only time he has taken so much as a point off his former club.
Bizarrely, Joselu’s record against Real Madrid is his second best against any club. He has only scored more against Cádiz, against whom he has converted eight goals in six meetings.