Real Madrid ground out a tough 2-1 victory away at Alavés on Saturday lunchtime. After Sergio Ramos put his side in front, he then conceded a penalty to allow Lucas Pérez to equalise. Yet Dani Carvajal popped up as the unlikely goalscoring hero to throw up several questions as well as some answers.
1. Which of the Cañizares twins would be happier this evening?
A little bit of background is needed to explain this one. Daphne Cañizares and Mel Cañizares are twin sisters and they both had a vested interest in this game as Daphne is the girlfriend of Carvajal and Mel is the wife of Joselu, a former Castilla player now at Alavés. As such, this fixture has been marked in red for some time in that family’s calendar. With Joselu playing on the right of Alavés’ attack and Carvajal marshalling the right side of Real Madrid’s defence, they didn’t have many individual duels. But they did have a couple and they both played a major part in the result, with Joselu winning his side’s penalty and Carvajal scoring the winning goal. That makes it three wins from three for Carvajal in his matches against Joselu, having previously played each other twice in the Bundesliga in 2012/13 when the right-back was at Bayer Leverkusen and the striker was at Hoffenheim. So the answer is Daphne. She’s the happier of the sisters this Saturday evening.
2. Would Zidane start Isco again?
Yes, and it was a great call. After impressing in midweek in his favoured No.10 role, Isco was back in the line-up in the Basque Country. The formation was a little different this time as Isco played more towards the left, with Gareth Bale replacing Eden Hazard on the teamsheet and in practice doing so on the right. Again, Isco played well and again he set up a goal by hitting a shot off the woodwork for someone else to turn in a rebound. It benefitted Karim Benzema in midweek and this time it was to set up Carvajal.
3. How would Éder Militão perform?
The absence of Raphaël Varane from Zinedine Zidane’s squad list meant Militão was set for just his fourth start of his Real Madrid career. The 21-year-old centre-back hadn’t had the best of times during his previous outings as two of his previous three starts were the PSG and Real Mallorca defeats, while the other was in the 2-0 victory over Osasuna. How would he do this time? Well, defensively, he was better and more secure than Ramos and showed off his extreme pace on a couple of occasions. This is a player with huge promise and this match and result will have worked wonders for his confidence. Even when Nacho recovers full fitness, Militão has to remain the third-choice cente-back after Ramos and Varane.
1. When will Casemiro be rested?
I saw a lot of people commenting about Casemiro’s minutes played during this game. The Brazilian came into this one having played 1,560 out of Real Madrid’s 1,620 minutes this season, so it’s true that he is in need of a rest. But there was no need to rest him in this game. That’s because he will get some rest in the coming weeks. Firstly, there is no midweek fixture for Real Madrid this coming week. Secondly, Casemiro is currently on four LaLiga bookings, so he is just one away from a suspension and a forced rest. There’s little point resting him right now when he could be out for another game in the next few weeks anyway. So, don’t worry about Casemiro. Rest is coming.
2. When will Bale start again?
This match brought about Bale’s first start in 56 days, his first since the match against Granada on October 5th. Yet the Welshman didn’t have a good game against Alavés before being taken off in the 67th minute. He wasn’t able to do much at all and you have to wonder when his next start will come, considering that Hazard could be back in time for the next match next weekend against Espanyol. With Hazard back and with Isco seemingly gaining prominence, it could be some time before the No.11 is present on the starting teamsheet again.
3. How good will this be for Rodrygo’s character?
This is the kind of character-building game that will have done wonders for Rodrygo. The 18-year-old only played the final 25 or so minutes, but this match will have taught him a lot through the mixture of the intense rain, the intimidating atmosphere and the moment in the game, where Real Madrid had their backs against the wall and were defending corner after corner and cross after cross. Of Rodrygo’s eight other appearances for Real Madrid, six of these had been at home in the comfort and familiarity of the Bernabéu. This time he had to perform in the tough conditions of the Basque Country. There was even one moment when he received a late shove from Rubén Duarte against the advertising boards. The young Brazilian stood up to the Spaniard and that’s something all Real Madrid fans will love to see. This match was a great one for Rodrygo’s development and maturity.