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Three Answers And Three Questions From Zidane’s Return

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What did the victory clear up? And what new doubts have arisen? 

Real Madrid CF v RC Celta de Vigo - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Second half goals from Isco and Gareth Bale made it a victorious return for Zinedine Zidane against Celta Vigo, as Real Madrid seek to finish the season strong. There were a number of doubts going into the match, and several of those doubts were answered. Zidane’s team selection, meanwhile, and the performances of certain players, has raised fresh question marks.

Here, we take a look at three answered questions and three questions that still need answering.

Three answers

1. How to cope without Casemiro?

Rarely injured and rarely suspended, Casemiro is almost always available for Real Madrid, so replacing him isn’t often a problem that comes up. Yet last season’s most-used outfielder was out against Celta Vigo after the previous weekend’s red card and his natural backup Marcos Llorente remained on the injury list. So what did Zidane do? He played Toni Kroos and Luka Modric together as a double pivot. Their presence was missed further up the field, but defensively this was a reliable solution.

2. Will Bale ever score at the Bernabéu again?

Yes! Ahead of this match, Bale’s last home goal came as far back as September 19th in the 3-0 victory over Roma. A total of 37 different players had scored in official matches at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu since then. On Saturday, though, the Welshman was finally able to shake off his Bernabéu angst by finishing well for the second goal of the afternoon. The 29-year-old was lively and energetic throughout, turning in one of his best performances of the season.

3. Does Courtois keep his place?

Nope. Zidane decided to turn to his trusted goalkeeper Keylor Navas, the man who played throughout the three consecutive Champions League successes, for this one. This was a major question mark in the build-up to the game, considering how strongly Zizou had defended the Costa Rican during his previous stint in charge and considering how he poo-pooed the signing of Kepa last January. Courtois had come in since his departure and had taken over from Navas, but Zidane turned to the former Levante man and his faith was repaid with an early save from Maxi Gómez.

Three questions

1. What happens now to Reguilón?

Sergio Reguilón has been one of the breakout stars of Real Madrid’s 2018/19 season, but he didn’t play a single minute as Zidane inserted Marcelo back into the line-up at left-back. The Brazilian had one of his better games of the season and even assisted Bale’s goal, so what does this mean for Reguilón? We should keep in mind that we’re looking at a sample size of one, and remember that there were also some matches under Solari when Marcelo was given the start. Once Zidane gets to know Reguilón better, maybe the 22-year-old will come back in.

2. Will Isco’s preferred role exist next time out?

Not only was Isco back in the starting line-up after going through hell with Solari, but he was allowed to play in his favourite position. The double pivot of Kroos and Modric freed up space for the No.22 to float behind the front line, and he capped off his afternoon with a goal. Will that position exist next matchday, though? Casemiro’s return could require a tactical shake-up and Isco might have to settle for a wider role. He may even find himself back on the bench.

3. Plans for Brahim?

Although he didn’t get on the pitch, the fact that Brahim Díaz made Zidane’s 18-man matchday squad raised a few eyebrows. The January signing had only made the squad on six previous occasions as he was often one of the ones left in the stands by Solari, but Zidane wanted him on the bench. It’s true that there weren’t many other options for the Frenchman due to Real Madrid’s lengthy injury and suspension list, but maybe this means that Brahim is in the coach’s plans. We’ll have to wait and see.