Real Madrid went away to Levante – well, sort of away – and picked up their first multiple-goal victory of the season, with an early strike from Vinícius and a late one from Karim Benzema making it a 2-0 win. Here come six talking points from the game, in the form of three questions that were answered and three questions that need answering.
1. Who would take the right-back spot and how would they do?
Comunicado Oficial. Comunicado Oficial. Just like that, Real Madrid announced this week that both of their right-backs were injured and out for at least the next few weeks. With no Dani Carvajal and no Álvaro Odriozola for this trip to Levante and with José Luis Morales on the other side, there was concern coming into this one over that right-back spot. While the options of Ferland Mendy and Lucas Vázquez were there, Zidane ultimately opted for Nacho. The 30-year-old was nothing special in this one and lost Nikola Vukčević at a corner, with the Levante min striking the woodwork. But, overall, Nacho did a good enough job to more or less contain Morales.
2. Would Courtois finally have a quiet afternoon?
No. Once again, Courtois was a busy man. He faced four more shots on target and saved them all, making particularly impressive stops from Enis Bardhi. That’s 13 saves already for the season from Courtois. Only Valencia’s Jaume Doménech (22) and Eibar’s Marko Dmitrović (14) have more. For a Real Madrid goalkeeper to be in the league’s top three for saves made is simply not a good look and Zidane knows this. In his post-match press conference, he said: “Courtois saved us, just like all goalkeepers look to do for their team. We’ve got to keep going and we’ll try to ensure our goalkeeper suffers a little less.”
3. How weird would it be to see this game at La Cerámica?
Going into this match, there was a lot of talk about the last time Real Madrid faced Levante. That was the 1-0 defeat in February in which Eden Hazard reinjured his ankle. It was logical that thoughts would turn back to that game, but Real Madrid wouldn’t be experiencing any sort of ghosts of the Estadi Ciutat de València. No, nothing like that. Instead, they were going to Villarreal’s Estadio de la Cerámica for this one, as Levante’s stadium is currently getting work done on it, just like the Bernabéu is. Levante will be returning to their home very soon and aren’t expected to play at Villarreal’s ground as the home team again, but it was certainly weird to have the yellow stands as the backdrop for this game.
1. Will we get to see a Fernández family rivalry next time out?
Given that Odriozola may still be unavailable for Real Madrid’s next game, against Cádiz after the break, there may be a Nacho vs Álex Fernández match on the cards. The two brothers came through the Real Madrid academy together and Álex – the younger brother by two and a half years – actually made his debut for the Real Madrid first team before Nacho. But, Nacho has lasted far longer at Los Blancos, whereas the attacking midfielder moved on to Espanyol, Elche and now Cádiz. They’ve met once before, in 2014, when Álex was at Espanyol. It finished 1-0 to Real Madrid that day. Let’s see what happens this time around and if they both play.
2. Will Vinícius and Ansu Fati keep motivating each other?
I know Kiyan Sobhani was mostly joking when he posted a ‘Last Dance’ meme about Vinícius and Ansu Fati during today’s game, but there’s something to it.
Vinicius reading articles about Ansu Fati being better pic.twitter.com/Irdtgi8Ssq— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) October 4, 2020
We’re seeing these two young superstars exceed themselves week after week and it may actually be that they are inspired to try to match each other. We’ve seen so many rivalries over the years, in football and other sports, where the best in the game push themselves to an even higher level because they have such a talented rival right there breathing down their shoulder. Perhaps we’re going to see this with Vinícius and Ansu Fati over the next decade. Might this be the next great individual rivalry in football?
3. Can Luka Modrić keep this up?
Wow, just wow. Luka Modrić has started this new season on fire. The man who just turned 35 is continuing to dazzle in the middle of the park and he is putting in the defensive work too. We know it took him a long time to recover from Croatia’s arduous World Cup run, but Modrić has looked good for most of 2020 now. His contract is up at the end of the season. Can he keep up this good form for a few more months, enough to earn himself an extension?