From Sergio Ramos’ free kick to Takefusa Kubo’s performance against his parent club to Zinedine Zidane’s never-before-seen BBVH lineup, there were plenty of talking points about Real Madrid’s 2-0 victory over Real Mallorca. Here comes a look at several of them.
1. Would there be a 179th lineup?
There was an incredible statistic on MARCA this Wednesday morning, which explained that Zidane had used 178 different combinations for the initial 202 XI he had selected as Real Madrid coach. When you think about it and how much you like to mix things up, it makes sense. But, it still seemed incredible to me. So would we see a different combination number 179 in this game? The answer was yes. They had never before had Thibaut Courtois, Dani Carvajal, Raphaël Varane, Sergio Ramos, Ferland Mendy, Luka Modric, Fede Valverde; Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, Vinícius and Karim Benzema played together from the beginning. He is Zinedine ‘Rotations’ Zidane.
2. How would the first four work?
Once we saw we had a new starting XI, we thought about an hour before the game took shape. How would this work? What spaces would Benzema, Bale, Vinícius and Hazard occupy? We were expected to see BBVH as the front of a 4-2-3-1 classic and this was the case, with Hazard as No. 10, Benzema as No. 9 and Bale on the right and Vinícius on the left. It worked well, but it has to be said that we shouldn’t expect to see this attack-minded formation too much in the future. It was partly a response to Casemiro’s absence, as a way to create a double pivot. And it was partly possible due to opposition and the fact that this was one of the easiest matches, at least on paper, of the season.
3. How would Takefusa Kubo fare against his parent club?
Real Madrid faced Takefusa Kubo for the second time in 2019/20, but faced a very different Kubo than the one they played in the first game of the season in October, the 1-0 defeat. Back then, Kubo was not a starter for Real Mallorca. He played just 322 minutes in the first eight rounds of the season. Now, however, he is a great starter for this team, where he has become one of its best players. “If he stayed home tomorrow, then that would be better,” Zidane even joked when speaking about the Japanese at his pre-match press conference. In the end, Kubo played and played well. Real Mallorca was not good, but the 19-year-old was the most dangerous player on his team.
1. When will Benzema rest?
90 minutes. 90 minutes. 78 minutes 83 minutes A total of 341 minutes so far for Karim Benzema in the first four games since the restart. So a big question is: when can you rest? Along with Dani Carvajal, he is the only starter who really doesn’t have a natural replacement, in Benzema’s case due to injuries on the job. It is a problem because Benzema will need to rest at some point. In Barcelona, Lionel Messi also plays every game, but the Argentine can almost rest while doing so because he is very good at conserving energy while walking the field, before a decisive outburst. That is not the style of Benzema. The Frenchman runs and moves all the time, all over the field. That is exhausting and you will need a free night at some point. Perhaps the next game against Espanyol, located at the bottom, would be an opportune moment …
2. How long will it take until the next free kick goal?
Ramos’ spectacular free kick was Real Madrid’s first in 528 days. Since Dani Ceballos scored against Real Betis on January 13, 2019, Los Blancos found the back of the net this way. Despite the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2018 partly explains this, it is still surprising considering how many talented free-kick shooters there are on the Real Madrid team. Ramos is one of those and was practicing free throws before Wednesday’s game. In fact, he took one during warm-ups at Di Stéfano from a position almost identical to the free kick he scored in the game, hitting the crossbar on that occasion. After that young lady, he yelled at Thibaut Courtois that the next one was going to enter. During the game, surely yes.
3. Can Real Madrid keep this advantage at the top?
Real Madrid took first place on Sunday and they have managed to stay there during this midweek journey. If they win all their games, they will stay on top and end the season as champions, no matter what Barcelona does. But, this is not a fact. In 2019/20 Real Madrid struggled to stay on top every time they climbed to the top. The only days in which they have been at the top of the table at the end of the round are days 1, 6, 7, 8, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 30 and 31. The longest race in the part superior, therefore, it was only four rounds. We saw just before the coronavirus was broken how they left the lead almost immediately after winning El Clásico and then losing at Real Betis. Let’s see if they can stay up during the last seven days of the game.