Real Madrid started 2017 with an emphatic 3-0 win over Sevilla in the first leg of the Copa del Rey round-of-16. Coach Zinedine Zidane fielded a mixed squad, without Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. Only the midfield line included his preferred starters, but the squad yet again showed its depth and managed a tricky match against a dangerous rival well. Real Madrid will face Granada at the Bernabeu on Saturday in their first La Liga fixture of 2017.
Zidane rested six of his theoretical starters and the team did not miss a beat. During the first 45 minutes the home side looked as dominating as they ever did in 2016, pressing Sevilla in their own half and creating chances galore. James Rodriguez played his best match in months, and the Santiago Bernabeu recognised the Colombian's effort with a rare standing ovation.
The side was less intense in the second 45 minutes, when Sevilla looked done and the home team could have run up the score. Alvaro Morata lacked accuracy and squandered chances that could have finished the tie for good.
Manager rating out of 10
9 -- The media will talk about the referee's mistakes, Sevilla's poor finishing or the eventless second half, but Zidane deserves huge praise for the way his team plays without a single member of his theoretical best trio. Both offensively and defensively, Real Madrid's first half of the match was outstanding coming off a holiday break.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kiko Casilla, 7 -- Between his saves and Sevilla's lack of accuracy in the final touch, Real Madrid kept a rare clean sheet.
DF Daniel Carvajal, 8 -- Maintaining his great form of the end of 2016, the local kid kept things tidy at the back, ventured forward often and even enjoyed himself with a beautiful pass with the outside of the boot.
DF Raphael Varane, 8 -- Except for a couple of missed tackles, a solid performance by the French centre back, culminated with a goal.
DF Nacho Fernandez, 8 -- "Nacho never disappoints" was one of the most repeated sentences on Wednesday night at the Bernabeu, and it's already becoming a theme. Outstanding season so far.
DF Marcelo, 8 -- One of his most complete matches in a while. Drove Sevilla's right side insane with his movement.
MF Casemiro, 8 -- As solid as usual, his steal created the chance for James to open the score sheet. His work rate is fantastic.
MF Luka Modric, 7 -- Less present than usual, even with a subdued performance he could have scored, and he presented the Bernabeu faithful with a few of his technical beauties, such as an outstanding scissors kick that almost went in.
MF Toni Kroos, 8 -- As is usually the case when Casemiro plays, Kroos moved forward often and pressed high on the opposition's side.
FW James Rodriguez, 9 -- In his best performance with Real Madrid in months, perhaps years, the Colombian scored a cracker to open the score and was instrumental in most of his team's movements.
FW Marco Asensio, 7 -- Shows often the signs of a great player. Surrounded by Kroos, Modric and James, it's obvious that he not only can keep up with them, but also that he enjoys himself immensely.
FW Alvaro Morata, 6 -- His tireless movement helped the midfielders carve out Sevilla's defence, but he had enough chances to have made the score sheet and did not succeed.
MF Isco 6 -- Replaced Asensio after 67 minutes. Wanted to enjoy himself, but the match was already decided, and the team did not quite follow his lead.
DF Danilo, NR -- Replaced James after 79 minutes. The Bernabeu does not really enjoy his presence, even as a sub.
FW Mariano Diaz, NR -- Replaced Alvaro Morata after 83 minutes. Not enough time to do much.