Post-Casemiro Real Madrid thrash Celta Vigo, show why they are LaLiga’s favourites again

Real Madrid recorded a comfortable 4-1 win over Celta Vigo in LaLiga’s second week of the season and the club’s first game since Casemiro’s departure to Manchester United. Karim Benzema scored first for Madrid and Iago Aspas equalised, but then Madrid intervened and made it impossible for Celta Vigo to reconnect.

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Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and Federico Valverde have all scored in what would be a strong statement from Real Madrid to catch the eye of the rest of LaLiga. ESPN’s Alex Kirkland has a reaction from Abanca-Balaídos in Spain.

GO TO: Player Ratings | Best/worst performance | Highlights and Notable Moments | Quotes after the game | Key Statistics | Upcoming appointments

Fast reaction

No Casemiro, no problem

Real Madrid’s midfield has always been under scrutiny in the first game of the post-Casemiro era after the midfielder’s £70m move to Manchester United was confirmed a day earlier.

Here at Balaidos, it was Aurelien Tchouameni – recruited at even greater cost earlier this summer – who reassured Madrid fans there was life after the legendary midfield trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.

Kroos didn’t feature here as he was ill with the flu, but Modric – who was still sort of getting better at 36 – was majestic alongside Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga. He put Madrid ahead before half-time with a typical curling shot and later played a visionary pass for Vinicius Junior to make it 3-1 after the break.

There was a lot to like about Tchouameni’s performance as well. The young French midfielder seemed to gain confidence and authority as the game progressed.

That third goal started with Tchouameni’s block inside Real Madrid’s box before Modric and Vinicius did the rest – and it was his driving run in midfield that scored Madrid’s fourth goal, completed by Fede Valverde.

Bigger challenges lie ahead and like any young player, Tchouameni will have good days and bad days, but this has been a very encouraging start.

Central defender’s dilemma for Ancelotti

Carlo Ancelotti has made it clear that last year’s favorite centre-back pairing, David Alaba and Eder Militao, will start this season as first choice despite the arrival of Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger on a free transfer.

However, Militao made another high-profile error here – handling the ball for Celta’s first-half penalty equalizer – while Rüdiger came off the bench to catch the eye with another physically dominant display.

Rudiger’s La Liga debut in Almeria last weekend was hardly flawless but one wonders how much longer Ancelotti can let a player of his character, experience and athleticism go.

A raging run in top field before exchanging passes with Karim Benzema resulted in Madrid earning a second penalty of the night, missed by substitute Eden Hazard.

Madrid’s squad is brimming with talent this year and Rudiger has already shown unexpected versatility by filling both full-back positions but he will want to play more shortly with Militao most likely absent.

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Aspas again the captain for Celta

If Madrid risk relying too much on Benzema to score the goals they need to fight for trophies again, Celta’s prospects this season rest solely on the shoulders of Iago Aspas.

The 35-year-old local hero and club legend scored 18 league goals last year – only Benzema scored more – and after summer departures for attacking, creative strikers like Brais Mendez and Nolito, Aspas will have even more responsibility for both providing and finishing that time.

New signing Goncalo Paciencia did well as a target here, while Carles Perez on loan had to come in from the bench, but looking at the Celta squad it’s probably just Aspas who should go into double figures.

He’s still capable of brilliance – a run just before half-time saw him leap past Modric and charge forward before running out of breath – and Celta have talented players elsewhere on the pitch like Javi Galan and Fran Beltran, but they are too patchy and worryingly inconsistent.

Success or failure for Celta this year will depend – as has been the case for much of the past decade – on how far Aspas can take them.

Player Ratings

Real Madrid: Thibaut Courtois 6 Dani Carvajal 6 David Alaba 7 Eder Militao 5 Ferland Mendy 6 Aurelien Tchouameni 8 Eduardo Camavinga 7 Luka Modric 8 Fede Valverde 7 Vinicius Junior 8 Karim Benzema, 7.

Subtitle: Antonio Ruediger 7 Dani Ceballos 6 Lucas Vazquez 6 Eden Hazard 5 Marco Asensio 6

Celta Vigo: Agustin Marchesin 7 Hugo Mallo 7 Joseph Aidoo 6 Unai Nunez 6 Javi Galan 7 Renato Tapia 5 Fran Beltran 7 Oscar Rodriguez 6 Franco Cervi 7 Iago Aspas 7 Goncalo Paciencia, 6.

Subtitle: Carles Perez, 6 Gabriel Veiga, 6 Luca de la Torre, 6

Best and worst performers

BEST: Luka Modric, Real Madrid.

Terrific. He helped the younger midfielders at his side, scoring the goal of the game and creating the crucial third for Vinicius that put Madrid out of sight.

WORST: Eder Militao, Real Madrid.

His performance – and above all his concentration – must improve, otherwise Rüdiger will soon be in the team.

Highlights and notable moments

Karim Benzema, LaLiga’s best player last season, scored his first goal of the 2022-23 season.

Celta Vigo pulled one back from a penalty by Iago Aspas, but then Luka Modric also got involved.

Modric scored one of his signature goals from outside the box and later earned applause from Celta Vigo fans when he was substituted later in the game.



Luka Modric scored the opening goal for Real Madrid in the 41st minute.

While Celta Vigo provided a tight feel in the first half and the teams went into the break with Madrid 2-1 up, the second half was a different story altogether.

When Madrid made it 3-1 with a beautiful finish from Vinicius Junior, it was all but over.



Vinicius Junior bypasses the keeper and scores for Real Madrid in the 56th minute.

After the game: what the managers, players said

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti: “We’re happy. We played well. We had good individual performances from players who haven’t played much, they’re new. Tchouameni played really well, and Camavinga. We showed a lot of energy on the pitch and the performance was good , we are definitely looking to the future with confidence.”

Ancelotti: “We have players who can play in different positions, that helps the team. I think the squad we have is a really good squad, I have no doubts about that.”

Real Madrid midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni: “Of course we have to think about a move… The veterans understand that very well because the youngsters also showed last season that they deserve a place. That’s why it’s important to manage the dressing room well, understanding the veterans and the patience of young people.”

Tchouameni on Modric: “He’s immortal. Luka is always ready, he’s always prepared, he always plays well. The goal he scored changed the game. Until the goal, the game was balanced, competitive, Celta put us under good pressure , it was difficult for us to have the ball. In the second half they dropped their intensity and we played the ball well from behind and our transitions were spectacular.”

Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

  • Karin Benzema scored his 19th penalty goal in LaLiga. Only six active players have taken more penalties than the Frenchman in LaLiga: Raúl García, Negredo, Parejo, Iago Aspas, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

  • Since the start of last season, no team has scored more penalties in LaLiga than Real Madrid (13, level on points with Levante).

  • Iago Aspas scored his 136th LaLiga goal, the fourth most among active players. He’s now also the 10th most penalty of all time in LaLiga at 31. Next on the list is David Villa at 32.

  • Luka Modric scored his 12th career LaLiga goal from outside the box. Of Modric’s 23 LaLiga goals, 12 came from outside the box. Since Luka Modric joined Real Madrid in 2012/13, the only players with more goals from outside the box in LaLiga are Lionel Messi (67), Antoine Griezmann (25), Cristiano Ronaldo (24), Dani Parejo (18) and Iago Aspas ( 16).

  • Federico Valverde scored his first competitive goal since beating Barcelona in the 98th minute in the SuperCup semifinals on January 12.

  • Aurelien Tchouameni had 13 recoveries. Casemiro, who led the LaLiga team with 230 recoveries last season, only had 1 game with 13+ recoveries with Real Madrid in LaLiga last season (14 vs Getafe in January 2022).


Real Madrid: The LaLiga champions play at Espanyol on August 28 (watch it LIVE on ESPN+) before their home game at the newly refurbished Bernabeu against Real Betis on September 3.

Celta Vigo: they go to Girona on Friday 26 August (watch LIVE on ESPN+) and a week later host Cádiz. Post-Casemiro Real Madrid thrash Celta Vigo, show why they are LaLiga’s favourites again

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