It was trickier than some expected, but Real Madrid ground out a huge 2-1 victory away at Granada on Monday night, a result that had Zinedine Zidane screaming with delight at the full time whistle. Here is a look at the various talking points that this game has thrown up, in the form of questions and answers.
1. Would Courtois hit 500 minutes?
Going into Monday’s match, Thibaut Courtois and the Real Madrid defence hadn’t conceded in 457 minutes. This meant it was possible to overtake Marc-André ter Stegen and the Barcelona defence’s record for 2019/20 of 500 minutes without conceding. And that’s exactly what happened. By the time Los Blancos did concede to Darwin Machís, it had been 507 minutes since the Mikel Merino goal in the 2-1 win at Real Sociedad. So, Real Madrid now hold the record for the longest run without conceding this LaLiga season.
2. How would the five-man midfield work?
Every time that Zidane has opted for a five-man midfield, Real Madrid have logically dominated possession. Once the teamsheets were revealed, it was going to be interesting to see just how high Real Madrid’s possession stats could go against a Granada side that like to sit deep and counter attack. And those stats were high. Overall it was 62 percent possession for Real Madrid, but in the first half it was as high as 72 percent. There was even one spell in the first half where Real Madrid kept the ball for well over two minutes, between a Thibaut Courtois punch when the clock was 20:22 and a foul on Luka Modric when the clock hit 22:39. Between those two minutes and 17 seconds, Real Madrid sprayed the ball around with 51 passes without losing possession. It was beautiful to watch.
3. Would Benzema have another good night against his favourite victim?
There’s something about Granada that makes Benzema tick. Going into this matchday, the two teams the No.9 had scored the most against in his career were Granada and Athletic Club, with 11 goals each. By netting at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes on Monday, Benzema now has 12 goals against the Andalusian club to make them his outright favourite victim.
1. Will Thursday be the day?
Zidane has been saying since the restart that he expects the title race to go down to the final day, but it might actually be wrapped up before then. With a win against Villarreal on Thursday night, Real Madrid will mathematically become champions no matter what Barcelona do. Even if Real Madrid fail to win, a similar Barcelona slip-up could still hand Los Blancos the championship. It’s not often that a league title is won on a Thursday, but this might be the case this time around at the end of what has been such a strange season.
2. Can we get Militão a goal?
With Ferland Mendy finding the net in this one, doing so from an impossible angle, this meant that 22 different Real Madrid players have now scored at least one goal across all competitions this season. As such, the only outfielder in the squad who is yet to score is Éder Militão. Even if only looking at LaLiga goals, it’s 21 different Real Madrid players who have scored at least one league goal, with only Militão and Brahim Díaz – whose only goal this year came in the Copa del Rey – still to do so. Amazingly, Courtois even almost scored as well this season in that crazy finish at Valencia back in December. We can’t expect the goalkeeper to score, but it would be nice if Militão can get a goal before the end of the campaign.
3. Could Benzema finish the campaign as top scorer?
Benzema just won the June Player of the Month award and now another individual prize is in his sights. The Frenchman is closing in on Lionel Messi in the race to win the Pichichi, the award for the top scorer of each LaLiga season. Messi currently has 22 goals, while Benzema has 19. It’s still unlikely that he can make up those three goals in the final two matchdays, while you can never rule out Messi adding to his own tally. But, Benzema is in red hot form and Messi looks tired, as one of just two LaLiga players – along with Villarreal’s Raúl Albiol – to have played every minute since the restart.