Real Madrid have now had and won their first home game of the 2020/21 season, defeating Real Valladolid 1-0 at the Estadio Di Stéfano at Valdebebas. Once again, there were many interesting talking points as this new season truly gets going. Here are six of them in the form of three questions that were answered and three questions that need answering.
1. Would Real Madrid keep up their 100 percent record at the Di Stéfano?
This was Real Madrid’s first official match back at the Estadio Di Stéfano since they secured the 2019/20 LaLiga title against Villarreal back on July 16th. Their record there was impeccable down the stretch last season, winning all six of the home matches they played there post-lockdown and doing so by a combined score of 13-2. They even thrashed Getafe 6-0 there in the ‘ghost game’ pre-season friendly. So, could they keep up that 100 percent record in the first home game of 2020/21? Yes. Not by much, but yes.
2. Would Benzema and Jović start together again?
There was surprise at the weekend when Zinedine Zidane started Karim Benzema and Luka Jović together. So, would he make it two games in a row with a front two of the Frenchman and Serbian? He did, and that had to come as a surprise. Not only because of the rumours surrounding Jović’s future, but also because they had never started two matches in a row together before this game. But, Zidane went for it and, in actual fact, Jović was more lively than Benzema in this one.
3. How would Zidane deal with Real Valladolid’s wingers?
Real Valladolid are better than many people give them credit for. Ronaldo and his board have made some good acquisitions this summer and Sergio González is one of the most underrated coaches in LaLiga. The Pucela have particular strength and particular depth on the wings, with talents such as Óscar Plano, Fabián Orellana, Pablo Hervías, Waldo and Toni Villa. So, you had to wonder how Zidane was going to deal with these pacey wide players in this one. His solution? To use both of his backup full-backs at the same time, with Marcelo and Álvaro Odriozola give the nod... Real Valladolid didn’t actually play with as much width as they usually do and Odriozola had a (perhaps surprisingly) good game. So, Real Madrid managed to keep Real Valladolid under control for the most part.
1. Did Jović or Vinícius have a better game?
For many, the narrative coming out of this game will be that Real Madrid finally scored just after Jović came off and just after Vinícius came on. The fact that the Serbian didn’t score and that the Brazilian did will lead to some very simplified conclusions that Jović equals bad and Vinícius equals good. But, I though that the former Eintracht Frankfurt man had a much better game. He was just a little unlucky, whereas Vinícius benefitted hugely from a lucky touch off a defender that played him onside for the chance that he took.
2. Why is Casemiro so quiet?
Casemiro completed just 41 passes in this match. There were only four matches in all of last season in which he also played 90 minutes and completed fewer, so you have to wonder why he was involved so little. One thing I noticed in this game was the way that Sergio Ramos would carry the ball out from the back himself and then play a pass once he basically reached the area of the pitch that Casemiro was occupying. To me, that seemed wasteful and that’s perhaps why the Brazilian wasn’t as involved as he usually is and that’s not necessarily his fault. But, this has certainly been a quiet start to the season for the midfielder.
3. Is the reliance on Courtois a concern?
Once again, Thibaut Courtois came up big for Real Madrid and played a huge role in the three points. After also making huge stops at Real Sociedad and Real Betis, the Belgian did so again. It’s great that Real Madrid have such an quality shot-stopper, but should it be a concern that Courtois is being called upon so much? Perhaps not in LaLiga, where Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid all benefit from MOTM performances from their goalkeepers from time to time. But, maybe the Courtois magic won’t be enough in the Champions League.