Very few teams in the world are as dangerous as Real Madrid in counter-attack. The technical and athletic dominance of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale obviously plays a key role, but Real’s counter-attack would not be as effective without Karim Benzema. The French forward is often the playmaker in the “Merengues” counter-attacks, the point of reference who is given the ball after it is recovered. The most significant example of this is the match against Eibar, played without Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale.

In the thirteenth minute, Real recovered the ball to the left of their penalty area and had to take on Eibar’s pressing. At this point, Benzema approached to provide a way out and he received an extremely accurate high pass from Sergio Ramos.

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Benzema’s motion allowed Real to get around Eibar’s pressing and set up the counter-attack. The Frenchman passed back to Danilo and immediately moved to create a new passing line, but his teammate ignored him, preferring to pass to Pepe and strengthen possession. The play continued, Real moved up the pitch on the left and Benzema was clever enough to accompany the play on the weak side, always keeping his distance from Eibar’s left fullback. This meant that for Asensio’s cross, the French striker was open and easily able to finish the play, taking Real into the lead.

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In the second half, Pepe put the ball back in play to create the chance for another “Merengues” counter-attack. Benzema read the situation quickly and dropped back to control the ball and set up the attack.

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The French striker’s play management is textbook playmaker performance. With an oriented control, he moves the ball along the left wing, getting ahead of his direct adversary, then he buys time, drawing in three Eibar players and opening up a pasture for Asensio. The Spaniard sprinted into the space and received a brilliant left-footed pass from Benzema that led to Real’s 4-0 goal.

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Playing between Cristiano Ronaldo and Bale could lead to underestimating Benzema’s contribution. But his intelligence in opening up spaces for his teammates and his awareness in ball management often make him the key player in Real Madrid’s counter-attacks.

Federico Aquè
Federico Aquè is the editor-in-chief of La Giocata. With a degree in Literature, he has collaborated with Sprint&Sport, Datasport and Sportmediaset. He founded Calcio Critico and writes for L’Ultimo Uomo