Real Madrid went back top of the LaLiga table by defeating Barcelona 2-0 at home on Sunday night. It’s a massive result for the title race and it’s one that throws up many questions and one that also provides some answers.
1. Marcelo instead of Mendy? Was Zidane crazy?
After the Toni Kroos absence was the big talking point from the midweek Real Madrid line-up, the decision from Zinedine Zidane to place Marcelo at left-back ahead of Ferland Mendy on the night when Lionel Messi was coming to town was another questionable one. But Marcelo absolutely delivered. The Brazilian was very useful in attack, was more defensively sound than he has been in a long time and he even won a one-on-one footrace against Messi when the Argentine was about to burst through against Thibaut Courtois. Zidane’s decision maybe didn’t seem so crazy after all.
2. How would Carvajal respond?
Sticking with full-backs, one of the other big questions going into this game concerned Dani Carvajal. The right-back had a bad night against Manchester City, but he cannot afford to fall out of form given that there is no backup at his position. Of course he would start again in the Clásico and he was actually effective in this game. As has often been the case this season, he was often out of position. But even then he was making a positive impact, such as when he lofted a ball in from the left side of the pitch to Karim Benzema for the Frenchman to volley over Barcelona’s goal.
3. Was Mateu Lahoz going to Mateu Lahoz?
You have to worry every time Antonio Mateu Lahoz is given a big game like a Clásico. You really have to. It’s not that he is biased to one team or another, but it’s that he loves to be the star of the show and the stars of the Clásico should be the players, who are the best players in the world. While Mateu Lahoz did give out a few early yellow cards and was a bit too touchy-feely at points, he generally blended into the background and allowed this game to flow. There were just 23 total fouls, six fewer than the average for LaLiga Santander matches this season. That’s a good thing. We got to enjoy a good game.
1. Mariano or Jović?
There were already murmurs when Mariano was included in the squad to be the backup striker ahead of Luka Jović. Then, in the final moments of the game when Real Madrid were winding down the clock, Zidane sent on Mariano. And the forward scored! Mariano now has 95 minutes per goal during his Real Madrid career, while the Serbian is on 385. This is going to become a talking point. The next time Zidane replaces Benzema, due to rest or suspension or whatever, people will be asking questions if the man coming in isn’t Mariano.
2. Is Vinícius now a finisher?
Vinícius was the hero, the match winner. This moment was exactly what he deserved as he has been in great form and putting in a really positive work ethic for the past few weeks. So, does this goal mean he is now a top-class finisher? Well, no, Firstly, his goal went in via a big deflection off Gerard Piqué. Just like his goal against Melilla which went in with a big ricochet off the goalkeeper, or the Al Ain or Real Valladolid shots that went in but that went down as own goals. Officially, Vinícius now has seven Real Madrid goals. But let’s not pretend like he’s suddenly a clutch finisher because he hit a shot that bounced off Piqué’s shin and in.
3. Can Real Madrid turn this into a league title?
The last time Real Madrid defeated Barcelona in a league match was back in 2015/16. Not even when they won the league in 2016/17 did they actually go on to claim the league title. So, can Real Madrid make these three points really count by now going on to win the league title? That’s a question that will take months to answer, but they’ll need to make sure they don’t become complacent after this big win. It’s Real Betis away next weekend and that will be a tough one despite the Andalusian side’s recent poor form.