Real Madrid suffered a Clásico hangover and gave away the lead in LaLiga, falling to a 2-1 defeat to Real Betis as Sidnei and Cristian Tello scored for the Andalusian side. It was a Karim Benzema penalty for Real Madrid’s goal in what Zinedine Zidane labelled the team’s worst performance of the season.
There are so many talking points and six of them are discussed in question and answer form below.
1. Would Real Madrid once again regret leaving out Fede Valverde?
Sunday night’s decision to leave Fede Valverde on the bench was a strange one. In fact, every decision to leave Valverde on the bench is a strange one. The Uruguayan brings something to Real Madrid that no other player can and they miss his energy and portable talent when he’s not on the pitch. Even though there was no midweek game last week and no midweek game coming up, he was left on the bench and Los Blancos paid for it. Just like they did two weeks ago against Levante when he also didn’t start and when he was also given only the final 10 minutes.
2. Would Benzema end his goal drought?
Yes. From the penalty spot, Benzema put the ball in the back of the net for the first time in 613 minutes. He hadn’t netted since doing so in the Madrid derby, on February 1st. Since then, he’d failed to score against Real Sociedad, Osasuna, Celta Vigo, Levante, Manchester City and Barcelona, but finally got back on the scoresheet when Sergio Ramos allowed him to take the spot kick. It was his 14th league goal of the season and his 19th overall.
3. Would Mariano get another chance?
Zidane rewarded Mariano for his Clásico goal with another spot in the squad, with Luka Jovic missing out for the third league match in a row. So, would we actually see Mariano on the pitch again? The answer was yes. He came on in the 69th minute, interestingly doing so for Toni Kroos, and his presence was a refreshing one. Despite scoring his penalty, Benzema did not have an overall good game – I’m mostly talking about in attack here and not so critical of the slip and giveaway for Real Betis’ winner – and he desperately needed another striker to support him against a Real Betis side who kept crowding him out with centre-backs. Mariano was a decent sidekick, even if he couldn’t prevent defeat.
1. Was this Real Madrid’s worst match of the season?
After the defeat, Zidane labelled this Real Madrid’s worst showing of the entire 2019/20 campaign. “This was our worst game as we lacked everything, from energy to play to possession to intensity,” he said. Was he right? Was this Real Madrid’s worst match of the whole campaign? The 3-0 PSG defeat and the 2-2 Club Brugge draw were also pretty bad, but I think Zidane is right. I think this was the worst one.
2. Why did Real Madrid loan out Álvaro Odriozola?
I said it at the time and I’ll say it again. Real Madrid should not have loaned out Álvaro Odriozola to Bayern Munich in January. “Oh, but they have Éder Militão,” was the attitude at the time. Well, we saw tonight just how much Militão struggled at that position. He is a centre-back and right now he cannot offer what Real Madrid need at right-back, even if he had played in that position on occasion at his previous clubs. Real Madrid need a reliable backup for Carvajal, who is far from indestructible and who misses several games every season through injury, illness, suspension or rest. There’s a need to bring someone in in the summer if the club don’t think Odriozola is that guy, but Odriozola would certainly have been useful to have for the time being.
3. How low will this year’s LaLiga winner’s points total be?
When all is said and done, we might look back on the 2019/20 season and say that whichever team lifted the LaLiga trophy did so because they were the “less bad” of the two, out of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Neither of the Spanish giants are covering themselves in glory this season, but somebody has to win it. It could take a much smaller points tally than we’re used to to claim the trophy this campaign. At the current pace, Barcelona are set to win the league with a points total of 82 and Real Madrid are on their way to a 79-point season if they keep up their current record of earning 2.07 points per game. Not since 2006/07, when both Real Madrid and Barcelona had 76 points and when Fabio Capello’s side won on head to head, has the Spanish champion won the league with a total as low as 82.