Real Madrid fell behind again in a Champions League match, but at least this time around they were actually playing well against Borussia Mönchengladbach when that happened. Late goals from Karim Benzema and Casemiro earned a 2-2 draw and there are many talking points to discuss from this sharing of the spoils that doesn’t really leave anyone happy.
1. Would this be as tough a trip to Mönchengladbach as the last one?
Real Madrid and Mönchengladbach have a history, a special one for the Spanish side. One of Los Blancos’ greatest ever comebacks came against the German side in the 1985/86 UEFA Cup when Real Madrid fell to a 5-1 defeat away at the old Rheinstadion and then won 4-0 at the Bernabéu, courtesy of two Jorge Valdano headers and a couple of late Santillana strikes, the second coming in the 89th minute. That saw them progress on away goals in a tournament they eventually won, but these sides had never played since then. So, how would it go this time? Well, there was another comeback. Perhaps it didn’t mean quite as much as the one back in the 1980s, but the two late Benzema and Casemiro goals earned a huge point for Real Madrid and surely brought up terrible memories for those Borussia fans who still remembered that UEFA Cup turnaround.
2. Would Hazard play at all?
Eden Hazard was in the travelling Real Madrid squad for this match, but that didn’t necessarily mean he’d play. It was very unlikely that he’d start and that proved to be the case. Then, with the way the match was going, there was a chance that Zinedine Zidane might not use him at all since this wasn’t the kind of calm and tranquil match where you’d like to ease a player back in to things. But, the Frenchman threw Hazard in at the deep end and he actually looked quite good, even coming close to scoring just a few minutes after coming on. Perhaps the best piece of news was that he didn’t look scared, because that was true of the way Hazard came back from his ankle injuries last season. This, remember, was a different type of injury that had kept him sidelined this time and he seemed confident in his body. This is very good news.
3. How would Lucas Vázquez do at right-back?
With Dani Carvajal, Álvaro Ordriozola and Nacho all injured, it was up to Lucas Vázquez to once again fill in at right-back for this game, just as he’d done in El Clásico when he came on following Nacho’s injury. In the Clásico, he was actually really good. So, could he repeat that performance? Sort of. The Spaniard was very good in the first half and actually created a lot in attack, while still performing his defensive duties well. He could have done better against Marcus Thuram at each of the goals, that’s true. But, there were far greater defensive problems at each of those goals than Lucas. And, something that won’t get mentioned, is that Lucas actually did a decent job against Thuram for most of the night. Considering he was the fourth-choice right-back, this was not a bad effort.
1. How much does this complicate Real Madrid’s chances of qualification?
“If we play like this then I’m confident things will work out for us and we’ll get through this group.” That’s what Zinedine Zidane said in his post-match press conference and he’s right in a sense. Real Madrid probably will get out of this group. It’s not because they’ve been good, as they clearly haven’t because they’ve taken just one point from the first six available. But, I’ve been saying all along that this is the low-key group of death and this might actually play to Real Madrid’s advantage because all of the teams are so strong that they’ll take points off each other. We’re seeing that already, by the fact that Real Madrid have had two bad results and are bottom with one point while at the same tim e being just three points off first-placed Shakhtar Donetsk’s four points and just one behind the two points of Inter and of Borussia Mönchengladbach. It’s still in Los Blancos’ hands.
2. How does Zidane fit Fede Valverde into the line-up?
He may have been poor towards the end of the 2019/20 season, following the return from the coronavirus lockdown, but Fede Valverde has started the new season in excellent form. So too has Luka Modrić, so how does Zidane fit them both into the line-up? Last season, the coach could basically play Casemiro, Toni Kroos and one out of the Croatian or the Uruguayan, but maybe now he has to play all four. He has rarely played four midfielders, as he has tended to go for three or five, but perhaps it’s time to try a midfield trio of Valverde, Casemiro and Kroos, with Modrić just in front in what will eventually become the Ødegaard role.
3. When will Real Madrid play in front of fans again?
Even though this was an away game and fans would, in theory, be a disadvantage for Real Madrid, I’m sure that most were sad to learn that the 10,804 tickets sold for this game weren’t going to be used in the end. A rise in cases in Mönchengladbach meant that fans could not actually attend this game at Borussia Park and that’s a huge shame. The Champions League is special and the fans braving the cold midweek winter nights make it so. Let’s hope that comes back soon, even if it’s in Real Madrid away games.