Real Madrid took a huge step towards the title with a 1-0 victory over Athletic Club on Sunday afternoon. There were many positives for Madridistas to take away from the game in Bilbao and several of those are discussed in the following three questions which have been answered and three questions which need answering.
1. How would Éder Militão do?
Real Madrid’s excellent defensive record has propelled them to the top of the league and they’ve been so solid at the back because Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane have been playing so well and have been so in sync. So, Varane’s absence for this game was a concern. However, Éder Militão came in and he played excellently, going up against one of the toughest and most physical forward lines in all of Spanish football. Ramos is now suspended for the next game against Alavés, and for the Manchester City second leg in August, but there will be more faith in Militão now as we move forward.
2. Was Marco Asensio ready to start?
420 days after his previous start, Marco Asensio was back in a Real Madrid starting line-up. After some impressive performances off the bench, the man from Mallorca was in the team from the first whistle for this one and it was going to be interesting to see how he’d cope. What we saw was that Asensio is in excellent shape, both physically and in terms of his quality of play. He created various chances and lasted 74 minutes, proving that he is back.
3. What was going on with James Rodríguez?
The shock in the run-up to this game was the fact that James Rodríguez didn’t even make the 23-man squad list. That created headlines and journalists were looking forward to the post-match press conference so that they could ask Zidane about this. And, at that press conference, Zidane explained that James actually requested to be left out of the travelling squad due to “a personal matter”. So, we should all hope that nothing too serious has happened to the Colombian or his loved ones and leave the shock to one side for a moment.
1. Is Ramos the best penalty taker in the world?
He may be a centre-back, but Ramos’ goalscoring numbers would make most centre-forwards jealous. The captain has 10 LaLiga goals this season and six of them have come from the penalty spot, as he has proven to be so effective in front of goal. He has scored each of his past 22 penalties for club and country, so we have to wonder: Is Ramos the best penalty taker in the world? Statistically, at least, there’s nobody like him at the moment.
2. Who’ll play at right-back on Friday?
I already mentioned above that Ramos is suspended for Real Madrid’s next game, at home to Alavés on Friday, but so too is Dani Carvajal. The only right-back in the squad will get some much needed rest, but who can fill in for him in this game? With Nacho still carrying an injury and with Militão needed in central defence, that’s a couple of the options gone already. So, it’s likely that Ferland Mendy will play on the right, with Marcelo on the left. Either that, or we could see a return of the Lucas Vázquez at right-back experiment.
3. When is the earliest Real Madrid could win the league?
Barcelona still have to play on Sunday night, when they visit Villarreal, but for now Real Madrid boast a seven-point lead over their rivals. So, fans can already start to think about mathematically clinching the title. When is the earliest Real Madrid could win it? Well, it’s actually in their very next game, the Alavés fixture on Friday. If Barcelona fail to take more than one point from their games against Villarreal on Sunday and Espanyol on Wednesday then a Real Madrid win vs Alavés would seal it.