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Three answers and three questions from the draw at Valencia

There was late drama at Mestalla as Thibaut Courtois helped Karim Benzema salvage a point and a morale boost ahead of El Clásico. 

Valencia CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by David Aliaga/MB Media/Getty Images

Real Madrid will travel to the Camp Nou level on points with Barcelona after the late drama at Mestalla, where Thibaut Courtois went up for a corner and produced a header that his counterpart Jaume Doménech could only parry into the path of Karim Benzema. It earned Los Blancos a 1-1 draw and it raised so many questions too.

Three answers

1. Would Real Madrid capitalise on Barcelona’s draw?

This was the question of the day. With Barcelona having drawn at Real Sociedad the day before, Real Madrid had the chance to go two points ahead of their rivals with a win, just days before El Clásico. Could they do it? No, but it certainly seemed like they might given how well they started. “Even though we scored right at the end, the draw feels like too little,” is what Sergio Ramos said at the end of the match. The captain knew how important a win at Mestalla could be. It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that the late equaliser may not count for three points on the league table right now, but the phycological impact could be huge for the next few weeks of the season.

2. How would Nacho do in his first game in two and a half months?

With Marcelo injured and Ferland Mendy suspended, Zinedine Zidane went for Nacho as his emergency option at left-back. After recovering from his knee injury, he made the bench but didn’t play away at Club Brugge on Wednesday, so this was the Spaniard’s first appearance since October 1st. How would he do? Well, the truth is that he suffered a lot against Ferran Torres and that he was outmuscled by Daniel Wass and slow to get back for the Valencia goal, but he did a okay job considering the circumstances. And, considering the great form Ferran Torres is in right now, even Marcelo or Mendy may have struggled there.

3. How would Real Madrid cope without Casemiro?

It finally happened. Zidane rested Casemiro, leaving him out for the first match of the season. It was all to do with his yellow card situation, with the Brazilian one booking away from missing the Clásico at the Camp Nou. So, how would Real Madrid cope without him? Initially, they managed just fine. Fede Valverde occupied the Casemiro role and, as the Uruguayan always does, he performed excellently. Perhaps Casemiro would have stuck with Carlos Soler for the Valencia goal, rather than race toward Ferrán Torres as Valverde did. But we’ll never know. Now, it’s time to hope that the decision to leave out Casemiro was worth it.

Three questions

1. Will that Courtois moment endear him to Madridistas?

Since arriving from Chelsea in the summer of 2018, Courtois hasn’t had the easiest time of it. His Atlético Madrid past and the adoration for Keylor Navas, the man he was replacing, meant that it was always going to be tough for the Belgian goalkeeper to win over the hearts of the Real Madrid fans. A so-so first season and a complicated start to the current campaign didn’t help his cause either. But, he then went on a record run of 535 minutes without conceding and on Sunday night he was one of the heroes as he made excellent saves and as his header set it up for Benzema to snatch an equaliser. The question now is: Will the fans start to fall in love with the Belgian giant?

2. Has a goalkeeper ever scored for Real Madrid?

Courtois’ header came so close to sneaking past Jaume Doménech on its own and it would have been even more dramatic had the goalkeeper’s effort hit the back of the net. This throws up the question of: Has a goalkeeper ever scored an official goal for Real Madrid in the past? The answer is no, according to the experts on such matters, Mister Chip and Pedrito Numeros. There have been Real Madrid league matches in which a goalkeeper has scored, but both times it was the opposition No.1, with Toni Prats doing so for Real Betis in a 2-1 Real Madrid win at the Bernabéu in 2000 and Carlos Alberto Fenoy doing so in a 2-0 Celta Vigo win over Los Blancos in Galicia in 1976.

3. Who’ll be in attack for El Clásico?

Real Madrid basically played a front three in this match, with Isco on the left and Rodrygo on the right of Benzema. It worked to an extent, but will that be the formation in attack for El Clásico on Wednesday night? We know that Eden Hazard still won’t be back, while Gareth Bale is available and will be extra fresh considering he only came on as a substitute at Mestalla. Will Zidane want to play Rodrygo from the start in a match of such pressure? Or could Vinícius even get the call given the danger he posed in the Copa meeting with Barcelona last season? There are so many questions over Real Madrid’s attack ahead of this game. And we probably won’t know any of the answers until around an hour before kick-off.

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