Nacho’s 78th minute winner was enough for Real Madrid to earn a 1-0 victory at Real Valladolid, a win that will delight Zinedine Zidane as Los Blancos have moved to the top of the table and sit three points ahead of Barcelona.
As we always do after a match, here we’ve got three questions that were answered by this game and three new questions that need answering.
1. Would Zidane get his first win against Real Valladolid?
Real Madrid went to Valladolid knowing that a victory would give them a three-point advantage over Barcelona. There was a lot on the line. So, would they manage to get the three points? And would Zidane be able to secure his first win as a coach against Real Valladolid? The answer was yes. Real Madrid made the fans sweat it out and chew on those nails a little, but they managed it in the end and this result means that Zidane has at least one victory against 25 of the 26 LaLiga teams he has faced in Spanish football’s top flight as a coach. The only one he’s missing now is Real Mallorca.
2. How would Zidane replace Carvajal?
Perhaps the main question mark coming into this game was that of right-back. With Dani Carvajal suspended and with Álvaro Odriozola in Munich, there was no natural right-back available so Zidane was going to have to opt for one of Nacho, Éder Militão or Lucas Vázquez. Or get really experimental. The answer we got was probably the most logical one, with Nacho starting. He did a good job on the right side up against his opposite number Raúl García and, of course, the Spaniard popped up late on with the decisive goal.
3. Would we get a game with lots of goals?
Let’s be honest, this LaLiga weekend hasn’t been the best one. It hasn’t been the most entertaining. In the nine matches played before Real Madrid took to the pitch at the Estadio José Zorrilla, there had been just 15 goals. That’s an average of just 1.67. And for Sunday’s games the average was 1.0 goals per game exactly. So, would Real Valladolid vs Real Madrid change that? No, not at all. The average remained exactly the same as there was just the one goal in the match. The neutral fans may have wanted some end-to-end action and plenty of net ripples, but this was a cagey affair and it took 78 minutes for the deadlock to be broken.
1. What’s up with Benzema?
It’s now six matches without a goal for Karim Benzema. Generally, there hasn’t been cause for concern as the Frenchman has kept on doing his thing and dictating the attacking play. Even when not scoring, he’d been playing well. But, that wasn’t the case on Sunday night. This was one of the worst Benzema performances in a while and that will raise a few alarm bells. The No.9 deserves the fans’ patience as he has been so good this season, but he really needs to end this mini drought sooner rather than later.
2. It’s time to praise the set piece prowess
Real Madrid are brilliant at set pieces. That’s a fact. Led by Toni Kroos’ masterful delivery, they find ways to force the ball past the opposition goalkeeper and this has proven to be incredibly useful this season. In Sunday’s match, the winning goal came from the German’s second ball at a set piece, while Casemiro had a goal ruled out for offside from another Kroos delivery in the first half. It’s time to praise Real Madrid for how good they are at set pieces. They’re not a dirty little habit. They’re a legitimate way to score goals and a lot of work goes into them on training ground. Zidane even revealed after this game that he was the one who suggested the position Nacho should take up at his goal, hence the run and the hug with the coach afterwards. Zidane knows his set pieces. So, when are we going to properly praise him for that?
3. How many players will have scored by the end of the season?
With Nacho’s goal, that’s now 18 different Real Madrid players who have scored at least one goal so far this season. Already Benzema, Rodrygo, Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Gareth Bale, Raphaël Varane, Vinícius, Fede Valverde, Brahim, Dani Carvajal, Isco, Eden Hazard, Lucas Vázquez, James Rodríguez, Luka Jović and Nacho have scored. The only first-team squad members not to have netted yet are Mariano Díaz, Marcelo, Ferland Mendy, Éder Militão and the two goalkeepers. You’d like to think Mariano could get some minutes and score if he stays and you know that Marcelo always has a goal in him. Plus, if Real Madrid keep up their great play at set pieces, Mendy and Militão could score too before the season’s end. And, we’ve even seen Courtois come close. I think Real Madrid can reach 21 goalscorers by the end of the season. What do you think? Can they get the whole 24 members of the squad?