A Karim Benzema penalty and a Marco Asensio goal, set up by the Frenchman, steered Real Madrid to a 2-0 win over Alavés on Friday night, making it eight wins from eight since the resumption of LaLiga. Here is a look at several of the talking points in the form of questions and answers.
1. How would Zidane build a back four from just three defenders?
Coming into this game, there were just three first-team defenders available to Zidane: Ferland Mendy, Raphaël Varane and Éder Militão. So, how would the coach build his back four? While some suggested using Gareth Bale as a left-back or trying out Fede Valverde at right-back, the most logical option was that of Lucas Vázquez as a right-back and that’s what Zidane went for. It worked out, as the Spanish winger got forward well and did a decent enough job in defence.
2. Would we see another penalty?
With Real Madrid having been awarded three penalties so far since the restart of LaLiga and with Los Blancos having won the past two matches 1-0 through penalty goals, all eyes were on the referee entering this game. Some jokingly said it was inevitable that Real Madrid would be awarded a penalty in this one, but the stats also suggested this was likely. Coming into this one, Real Madrid had been given nine penalties in LaLiga this season, which is the most in the division, and Alavés had conceded 14, the second most in the division. That’s got nothing to do with refereeing bias. That’s the simple logic of teams that spend more time in the opposition box being more likely to win penalties. And teams that spend more time in their own box being more likely to concede them. As happened here.
3. Would Real Madrid score the 500th goal of the Zidane era?
Yes, they sure did. Real Madrid went into this one with 499 goals scored with Zinedine Zidane in charge of the first team, so history was made when Karim Benzema struck his first half penalty. That was his 74th goal for Zidane, but he is only number two on the list of players who’ve scored for Zidane’s Real Madrid as Cristiano Ronaldo bagged 112 while playing for the Frenchman.
1. Is Asensio going to finish this season with more goals than Bale?
When Asensio went down with his ACL injury in the USA in pre-season, you’d surely have been called crazy for claiming that the Spaniard would still go on to score more goals in 2019/20 than Gareth Bale. Yet, that might become a reality. Asensio scored his second goal since his comeback against Alavés, taking him level with Bale’s two LaLiga goals for the year and just one behind Bale’s 2019/20 total between all competitions of three. With three league matches to go, and the Champions League, there is now a good chance that Asensio actually finishes this season, the one in which he suffered the worst injury of his career, with more goals than the most expensive player at the club.
2. Can Courtois break Ter Stegen’s record?
Barcelona’s Marc-André ter Stegen currently has the record for the 2019/20 season for LaLiga minutes without conceding, having gone exactly 500 minutes without letting in a goal across Barça’s games against Real Sociedad, Real Mallorca, Leganés, Sevilla, Athletic Club and Celta Vigo. Thibaut Courtois is now onto 457 minutes without conceding, last doing so in the 83rd minute of the Real Sociedad game, before clean sheets against Real Mallorca, Espanyol, Getafe, Athletic Club and now Alavés. Can he hold on for the entire first half in the next match against Granada to take that record for himself?
3. Will Benzema be able to play on Monday?
The next game is just around the corner, as Real Madrid must go away to Granada on Monday night. So, it’s a big concern that Benzema limped out of this one and needed to sit with an icepack on the back of his leg, around the calf area. He even sat injured on the pitch for several minutes just after the end of the first half, but was able to continue. Whether he is fit enough to play on Monday, though, is a big question mark and a big concern. Granada are Benzema’s joint favourite victim, as he has 11 goals against them in his career, so he’ll be keen to return and add to that tally.