It wasn’t pretty, especially considering Huesca are the bottom-placed team in LaLiga, but Real Madrid got another win on Sunday night, beating the league newcomers 3-2. Real Madrid just know how to get it done under Zinedine Zidane.
So what will the coach have learned? And what pre-match questions were answered for him?
1. Will Real Madrid put on a show?
The feel-good factor had returned, and the league’s worst team were coming to town. This was the perfect opportunity, then, for Real Madrid to put on a show for their fans — right? Well, actually, wrong. Once again Real Madrid failed to turn periods of domination into goals and have only won seven of their 15 home matches this La Liga season by multiple goals, and have only won by three or more on two occasions.
2. Will we see December Marcos Llorente again?
Christmas came early for Real Madrid fans in December when a Casemiro injury allowed his understudy Marcos Llorente a sustained run in the side and a chance to show that he really is as good as was during his loan spell at Alavés. Sadly, the Spaniard then suffered injury after injury of his own and hadn’t played in La Liga in 2019 until this Sunday. How in shape would he be, we wondered. Well, it turns out that December Llorente lives on. He was excellent in front of the back line, winning the ball back, moving it forward and acting as the kind of marshal Real Madrid want him to be.
3. What will Zidane see from Brahim?
One of the fresh faces in the line-up was Brahim Díaz — the January signing who had only played 24 minutes before this weekend. Zidane wanted to see him in action and he certainly got his money’s worth. The 19-year-old was very involved. Not only did he set up his childhood hero Isco’s goal with a perfectly straight slice across the six-yard box that Rafa Nadal would have been proud of, but he played some eye-of-the-needle passes, performed several tip-tap turns under pressure and put his body on the line when necessary. On occasion he was perhaps too eager, as he was in the first half when he passed a quick free-kick to the feet of an opponent inside his own half, but Zidane will love the determination to make things happen.
1. Is this Karim Benzema’s best Real Madrid season?
That’s 23 goals now for Karim Benzema this season. The No. 9 was supposed to thrive in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and that’s what he’s been doing. It’s not just the goals that he scores, though. Benzema was involved in all three of tonight’s goals, setting up Brahim’s assist for Isco and then heading across goal for Dani Ceballos to turn in. Every time he dropped deeper outside the area he knew where the space was. So is this Benzema’s best season? Statistically, no. But based on the eye test, maybe.
2. Why exactly did Zidane start Luca?
Luca Zidane’s inclusion in his father’s line-up provoked all kinds of outcry on social media. That word that ends in -epotism was banded about, but that was perhaps unfair when considering that Thibaut Courtois is injured and that Keylor Navas played 90 minutes in Guatemala last Friday and 90 minutes in Costa Rica on Tuesday. Yes, goalkeepers can get fatigued too. Add in the fact that Luca has been great with Castilla this season and it looks more and more like a logical personnel decision, not a controversial one. Now let’s see what happens in the remaining nine matches. If Luca starts again when Courtois and / or Navas is fully available, maybe then we should start to question the decision.
3. Where did Marcelo’s dribbling go?
We all know that 2018/19 hasn’t been Marcelo’s year, but he has been given fresh reason to recover his form with Zidane’s return to the dugout. Two matches with the returned coach and 180 minutes under his belt. The Brazilian is trying to impress again, he really is, but his dribbling just wasn’t coming off for him this Sunday night. He didn’t beat his man once and it’s been a similar struggle all season. So where did Marcelo’s dribbling go? Let’s get it on the back of milk cartons now and find it.