Marco Asensio scored the only goal of the game as a rotated Real Madrid side beat Getafe on Saturday night.
Karim Benzema was given the night off and Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior made substitute appearances as Asensio struck from range to keep Real mathematically in the La Liga title race, though Barcelona can confirm first place on Sunday night.
Carlo Ancelotti’s starting XI was decided with the second Manchester City leg in the Champions League clearly in mind. Eight changes were made, including a rare start for Eden Hazard, and a lack of cohesion was evident.
There was also a return to fitness for Ferland Mendy. Eduardo Camavinga has been forced to fill in at left back in recent weeks but his compatriot’s availability means a spot is up for grabs at the Etihad next week.
Concrete chances were hard to come by in the first half. Asensio nearly connected with a Lucas Vazquez cross which whizzed across the six yard box.
Half time came and went with Real only mustering one shot on target. Their mathematical chances of winning La Liga would end with anything other than victory, but the game remained goalless by the hour mark.
Kroos had entered the fray by that point, replacing the returning Mendy as Camavinga shuffled out wide again.
Getafe showed positive intent on the break as Thibaut Courtois was called into action. A fierce strike from right back Juan Iglesias from the edge of the area required the big Belgian to palm the ball over the top.
Not long after that, Asensio struck to give Real the lead.
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The Spain international was allowed space to cut inside and work an angle, unleashing a shot which took a slight deflection to creep in at the near post.
Substitutes Mariano Diaz and Vinicius Junior combined to stick the ball in the back of the net moments laters, but the celebrations were curtailed due to a raised offside flag.
Asensio might have added a second to his tally if not for a sharp stop from David Soria, who denied the Real forward a brace at the back post.
The win moves Los Blancos up to second above Atletico Madrid in La Liga, though a similar XI is likely to be used in the final few weeks of the season if Ancelotti’s side reach the Champions League final.
The second leg with City is the next game on the horizon for Real, while Getafe remain in the relegation zone with only four games left.
GK: Thibaut Courtois – 7/10 – Was on sharp alert to deny Iglesias’ powerfully struck effort. A calm and collected presence at the back.
RB: Lucas Vazquez – 8/10 – A vibrant spark in attack throughout for Real, who struggled to get into full gear. Played the ball for Asensio to whip in the only goal of the game.
CB: Nacho Fernandez – 7/10 – Used the ball safely and didn’t lose an aerial battle. Good performance while Alaba and Rudiger got rests.
CB: Eder Militao – 7/10 – Returned to the starting XI and was sound in defence, making two tackles, clearances and interceptions apiece.
LB: Ferland Mendy – 7/10 – A first appearance in almost two months for the Frenchman. Rarely tested in behind and came off at half time.
CM: Dani Ceballos – 5/10 – Wanted to add attacking threat from midfield but his shooting boots weren’t on.
CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – 8/10 – Getafe had little answer to Tchouameni, who drifted past opposition challenges with ease and misplaced only four of his 97 passes.
CM: Eduardo Camavinga – 7/10 – Good performance but looked to have sustained an injury before being subbed off. Might face a nervy wait before Wednesday.
RW: Federico Valverde – 7/10 – Couldn’t always inspire fluidity in Real’s attack but teamed nicely with Vazquez on occasion and his tenacious work rate was clear to see.
ST: Marco Asensio – 8/10 – Took responsibility and ended up scoring the winner from range. Could be a vital option from the bench next week.
LW: Eden Hazard – 6/10 – Handed a rare start and effort wasn’t lacking but some chemistry with his teammates definitely was.
Toni Kroos (46′ for Mendy) – 7/10
Mariano Diaz (61′ for Ceballos) – 6/10
Vinicius Junior (61′ for Hazard) – 7/10
Luka Modric (61′ for Valverde) – 7/10
Alvaro Odriozola (84′ for Camavinga) – N/A
Carlo Ancelotti – 6/10 – Made a number of changes with eyes firmly on the return City game, so fluency did lack at points.
GK: David Soria (6); RB: Juan Iglesias (6), CB: Stefan Mitrovic (6), CB: Omar Alderete (7) LB: Gaston Álvarez (6); CM: Carles Alena (6), CM: Djene Dakonam (7), CM: Nemanja Maksimovic (6); RW: Cristian Portu (6), ST: Borja Mayoral (5), LM: Jaime Mata (6)
Substitutes: Angel Algobia (6), Munir El Haddadi (6), Fabrizio Angileri (6), Jaime Seoane (6), Jordan Amavi (N/A).