It’s five wins in a row now for Real Madrid as they came out as 3-1 winners in a very entertaining match away at Eibar. There were lots of questions going into that match and there are even more now. Here comes a look at some of the most interesting ones.
1. Would we see rotations?
The days of Zinedine Zidane having an A Team and a B Team are long gone. The coach has hardly rotated in the last few weeks, but it has been working well as Real Madrid came into this game with four wins in a row. He once again kept the team largely the same, with the only changes being the return of Casemiro from suspension and Vinícius moving out of the team after a bout of sickness. So, the answer to this question is ‘no’. We also didn’t see many rotations from Eibar, which is also something of a surprise. José Luis Mendilibar often rotates his side for the matches vs the top teams of LaLiga, preferring to sacrifice these very difficult battles to win an overall war. Considering Eibar have a crucial match with Alavés on Wednesday, many expected Mendilibar to play a weakened line-up against Real Madrid. He had several players out with injury and suspension, but played his strongest XI available and that’s what produced such a good game of football.
2. How would Real Madrid cope with Eibar’s high press?
Eibar may be a small club in LaLiga, the smallest in fact. But, they don’t play like it. They don’t just sit back and hope for the best. They play an ambitious brand of football and have become known for their high press. So, how would Real Madrid cope with it? Largely, they did well and exploited it several times early on, but there were a few moments when the Basque side almost caught their guests out. Special credit, I think, should go to Casemiro for dealing with an opponent’s press much better than on other previous occasions. The Brazilian finished with 57 passes completed out of 66 for a rate of 86%. Not bad at all.
3. Would there be biased TV coverage against Real Madrid?
Florentino Pérez sparked quite an odd debate in Spain this Sunday when he claimed at the members’ assembly that there is biased TV coverage against Real Madrid. So, would that be the case in this game? Pérez was referring to the domestic broadcasts and Carlos Martínez and Maldini were on the call for this one and were as professional as ever. It’s a strange thing for Pérez to bring up and is surely a distraction tactic. As Javier Tebas tongue-in-cheekly responded: “If you think the broadcasts aren’t objective then there’s an option to listen to the match with the RMTV commentary and I’m sure that’ll be more ‘objective’.”
1. Has Modrić been better in 2020 than he was in 2018?
Luka Modrić won the Ballon d’Or in 2018, breaking the Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi duopoly. It was nice to see another player recognised and the Croatian was clearly the best player at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. But, his start to the 2018/19 campaign was poor. It’s because he was exhausted and it’s a reasonable excuse, but it’s worth remembering that he didn’t start that campaign well at all. Considering the Ballon d’Or is supposed to be a calendar year award, Modrić’s 12 months of 2018 may actually not have been all that much better than his 12 months of 2020. In fact, Modrić has arguably had a better 2020 overall than his overall 2018. He started by scoring in his first two matches of 2020 and now, with his latest masterclass in Eibar, he’s ensuring that he is playing well until the very end of this calendar year.
2. Is Benzema more important to this team than Cristiano Ronaldo was?
Check this out for a stat. During Zidane’s first stint as Real Madrid coach, Cristiano Ronaldo scored 112 of the team’s 393 goals (28%). During Zidane’s second stint as Real Madrid coach, Karim Benzema has scored 45 of 151 goals (30%). So, is Benzema more important to this incarnation of Real Madrid than Cristiano Ronaldo was to the three-peat side? Zidane was asked this very question in his post-match press conference and, while he didn’t give a straight answer, he did explain that Benzema’s worth is even more than these impressive goalscoring numbers. As Zidane said: “He’s decisive. He’s playing phenomenally well. It’s not just about the goals. I always say the same about Karim. He brings overall play.”
3. Will there be rotations on Wednesday?
Since the answer to the pre-Eibar rotations question was a resounding ‘no’, I’ll ask it again. Will we see changes ahead of the home match against Granada on Wednesday night? I still don’t really think so. After that Granada game there is a seven-day break before the next fixture and, even then, it’s a fairly simply looking game against Elche. I think we’ll see a couple of changes against Granada, with Modrić surely not going to be risked after suffering a minor knock against Eibar, but I still don’t expect an overhaul. There’s no need for it just yet. Why try to fix something that’s not broken?