Madrid see off Celta in comfortable victory

Real Madrid's Marco Asensio celebrates scoring their first goal with Vinicius Junior and Dani Ceballos during the La Liga match against Celta Vigo on 22 April, 2023Reuters

Marco Asensio and Eder Militao struck for Real Madrid in a comfortable 2-0 win over Celta Vigo in La Liga on Saturday, bringing the champions within eight points of leaders Barcelona.

Although Madrid's hopes of overhauling Xavi Hernandez's side are slim at best, coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted his team needed to keep winning their league games to stay in a good dynamic.

Los Blancos face Osasuna in the Copa del Rey final in May, ahead of their Champions League semi-final clashes against Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.

With Barcelona in action against Atletico Madrid on Sunday, Madrid applied pressure on their Catalan rivals with an easy win over Celta at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The first half was quiet before Asensio sent Madrid ahead in the 43rd minute, with Militao heading home early in the second half to double the lead.

"We'll fight until the last game, while it's mathematically possible," Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told DAZN.

"We have to try and win the next three games and then when we play the cup final, see how many points off we are, and if there's a chance.

"Our job is to keep winning, and not just to cut the distance but for good sensations before the Champions League."

Ancelotti made five changes from the midweek Champions League victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, resting veterans Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

The coach did start Benzema, who was upset to come off against Chelsea, but the French forward had a quiet night.

Instead it was Asensio who drew the focus, converting with a scruffy but ultimately effective finish from Vinicius Junior's cut-back.

Real Madrid's Marco Asensio celebrates scoring their first goal during the La Liga match against Celta Vigo on 22 April, 2023

The Spanish forward also took the corner which Militao rose highest to head home in the 48th minute, putting the game beyond a Celta side which Madrid largely kept at arm's length.

Eduardo Camavinga, thriving in his left-back role, was arguably Madrid's best player and frequently drew applause from the Bernabeu for his convincing and occasionally tenacious performance.

Celta midfielder Gabri Veiga, one of the breakthrough stars of the season and linked with a Madrid switch in the summer transfer window, had a quiet game and was taken off after the hour mark.

The Galicians' other star, Iago Aspas, wasted Celta's best chance.

After shrugging off Nacho to run through on goal, the veteran forward tried to round Thibaut Courtois, but the Belgian goalkeeper read his intentions perfectly and thwarted him.

Goncalo Paciencia headed over the bar for Celta shortly afterwards, but the visitors didn't create many more opportunities.

Real Madrid's Eder Militao celebrates scoring their second goal during the La Liga match against Celta Vigo on 22 April, 2023

Ancelotti's side completed their assignment with professionalism, ensuring that if Barcelona -- who have drawn their last two league games -- continue to stumble, they will be in a position to capitalise.

Perhaps more importantly for the Italian coach, they continued their recent positive form and kept a fourth consecutive clean sheet across all competitions.

With Manchester City and free-scoring striker Erling Haaland on the horizon, this newfound defensive solidity could be particularly useful.

"I think lately we've been in a great run defensively," said Courtois.

"Today wasn't a great game on our part, we gave the ball away a lot but it's a victory, and we keep moving forward."