Sevilla? Tick. Borussia Mönchengladbach? Tick. Atlético Madrid? Tick. Real Madrid completed the perfect week with a 2-0 Madrid Derby victory. They’ve answered many doubters and they’ve answered many questions, some of which are looked at below, while this win also creates some new questions and those are discussed as well.
1. Would Zidane do anything specific to deal with this new-look Atleti?
In his pre-match press conference, Zinedine Zidane was asked about Atlético Madrid’s new three-at-the-back system and if he felt the need to change his approach because of what Diego Simeone has been doing. His fairly vague response was that he wanted Real Madrid to focus on what they could do. When the line-ups came out on Saturday night, it was clear that Zidane meant what he said. He wasn’t going to overhaul his team in response to what Atleti have changed. He went for his classic 4-3-3, with which he won so many Champions Leagues, often against Atlético. In the end, it was Simeone who was forced by the opponent to change his tactics, with the Argentine switching his back three for a back four very early on.
2. How would Marcos Llorente do vs his former club?
Marcos Llorente is, of course, a former Real Madrid player and he comes from a Real Madrid family. When going up against Los Blancos, though, he doesn’t have many happy memories. When he was on loan at Alavés, he wasn’t allowed to play in the Basque side’s two defeats to Real Madrid that season because of the “fear clause”. Since moving to Atlético Madrid, he hasn’t had much luck either. Before this weekend, Llorente had played 20 minutes of last season’s LaLiga 0-0 draw, played 90 minutes of last season’s 1-0 Real Madrid LaLiga win and played extra time of Real Madrid’s Supercopa win. Even in the 7-3 pre-season friendly, Llorente came on with the score already at 6-1, so Atleti actually lost 2-1 in the 25 minutes he was on the pitch. But, this is a new Llorente. This was the first derby since the Spaniard’s positional change. So, how would he do? Well, he didn’t do much at all. Ferland Mendy shut him down and that was a subtle key to Real Madrid’s victory.
3. Would Mateu Lahoz make this a good derby or a bad derby?
When it was announced that Antonio Mateu Lahoz would be the referee for this game, Spain largely grumbled. The touchy-feely referee is one of the most controversial officials in memory, but he can actually be quite a good referee for big blockbuster games such as this one. Mateu Lahoz tries to let the play flow as much as possible and doesn’t call for every foul. That was the case in this game and there were fouls and yellow cards that both teams got away with. But, for the fans watching on, this did help to improve the spectacle. Casemiro even had praise for Mateu Lahoz after the game, labelling him “the best”. “He is solid and he explains things to you,” the midfielder said of the official. It wasn’t a perfect performance from the man in the middle, but I think most can admit that it was a good one overall tonight from Mateu Lahoz.
1. Have Real Madrid created a blueprint for stopping Atlético’s new system?
This match might be worth more than just three points to Real Madrid because this match might have created a blueprint for other teams to copy when they face Atlético Madrid – and that could be huge in hurting Los Colchoneros’ title chances. Simeone has only been using his 3-4-3 system for a few weeks and nobody had been able to stop it yet, but now other coaches will have seen how Real Madrid caused Atleti so many problems by packing the centre of the pitch with three excellent passers. In Atleti’s new system, they only really have two central midfielders and, in the first half here, Koke and Héctor Herrera were overrun. Other coaches may not have a midfield like Toni Kroos, Luka Modrić and Casemiro, but they can take some valuable lessons away from this game. If you have full-backs good enough to take care of Atleti’s wing-backs on their own and if you pack the midfield, things will open up.
2. Will we see Carvajal and Lucas together more often?
Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vázquez have been playing together since 2011, since they were both in Castilla. Yet they’d only played two times together this season before this derby – the 1-1 draw at Villarreal and the 2-0 win away at Inter. Again against Atlético, they formed a very nice partnership down the right. Lucas had, of course, been filling in for Carvajal at right-back in recent weeks and there were times in this game when Lucas was the one who was closer to Thibaut Courtois. The duo would often switch positions, especially in the second half when they were on the touchline next to the dugout, with Zidane often seen communicating with the pair of Spaniards. This Carvajal-Lucas right-wing double punch could be a useful mechanism in the future. Let’s see when Zidane unleashes it again.
3. Will there be another Real Madrid comedown on Tuesday night?
It has been a great week with wins over Sevilla, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Atlético Madrid. There’s no doubt about that. But, as Zidane said after the match, Real Madrid haven’t won anything yet. These three victories against tough opponents only matter if Los Blancos can also pick up the three points they’re expected to take against weaker opposition. This Tuesday, they play at home to 11th-placed Athletic Club. This is a game they should win. This is not a good Athletic Club side this year. There isn’t much rest before that Tuesday night LaLiga match, but Real Madrid need to prove they can achieve the routine wins as well as the heavyweight triumphs.