So, Real Madrid once again won’t win the Copa del Rey. They haven’t won it since Gareth Bale rounded Marc Bartra and they won’t again this year, after Segunda B side Alcoyano – from the third tier in Spanish football and level in the standings with Castilla – knocked Real Madrid out 2-1 after extra time. And they did it with 10 men.
To break it all down, here are three pre-match questions that have been answered. And here are three more questions that this elimination has thrown up.
1. Would Real Madrid mount a cup run this year?
Zinedine Zidane never won the Copa del Rey as a player and hasn’t won it as a head coach either. The only time he did win this tournament was when he was assistant to Carlo Ancelotti in 2014. That was also the last year that Real Madrid even made the final. When this was brought up in the pre-match press conference, the coach laughed, but you could tell that he is a little embarrassed by these regular Copa failings. So, could Real Madrid embark on a serious run this season? No, they fell at the very first hurdle. The Copa del Rey drought will go on, but at least last year they went out to finalists Real Sociedad. This season, they’ve been eliminated by one of the lowest ranked sides remaining, a club whose budget for the entire season is 700,000 euros.
2. How would Lunin look?
One pre-match question mark was over Andriy Lunin, who was finally getting his first minutes for Real Madrid a whole 943 days and three different loans after he was signed by Los Blancos, doing so against a 41-year-old Alcoyano goalkeeper who’d debuted before Lunin was even born. And Lunin wasn’t great. He showed his good shot-stopping ability, but was as insecure in the air as when I saw him during his first few appearances on loan at Leganés. At one point, Casemiro had to go over and urge Lunin to come out and catch crosses and stop swatting them away. It’s tough to come in and command a back line that you don’t often play with, but this was still a disappointing performance from Lunin.
3. Could Odriozola regain his role as backup right-back?
Álvaro Odriozola came into this game as Real Madrid’s third-choice right-back, after Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vázquez. But, Real Madrid’s most recent game (the Super Cup loss to Athletic) was also Lucas’ worst ever at right-back, so this was an opportunity for Odriozola to reassert his right to the minutes that are available whenever Carvajal is out. But, in his first match since September, Odriozola didn’t convince. He was quiet, while Lucas was Real Madrid’s liveliest player. I don’t think we’ll be seeing much more of Odriozola.
1. How disgraceful was this result?
This was the first time since the Alcorconazo in 2009 that Real Madrid were knocked out of the Copa del Rey against a Segunda B side – apart from the administrative elimination vs Cádiz for the Cheryshev suspension. This was a hugely embarrassing result. In the post-match press conference, it was put to Zidane that this might be his worst defeat and a disgraceful result. And the coach said “no”. He said this wasn’t a disgraceful result. I think many would disagree…
2. Is Zidane’s job at risk?
To have lost the Super Cup and the Copa del Rey in the space of six days is a huge blow to Real Madrid and Zidane. Now, they need to fight back in LaLiga, which won’t be easy considering the advantage Atlético Madrid have had, or they need to go on to win the Champions League, which obviously won’t be easy either. Otherwise, it’s a trophyless season. I think the most likely scenario is that Real Madrid fail to win anything this season and that Zidane leaves in the summer. But, perhaps he could be gone beforehand. And if so, there’s no longer the break-glass-to-release-Pochettino-in-case-of-emergency option.
3. Why are Real Madrid sending Ødegaard away?
On the same day as this embarrassing elimination, Martin Ødegaard is on his way back on loan to Real Sociedad. Rather than strengthen the squad this window, Real Madrid are weakening it by loaning out Ødegaard and Luka Jović. Were they playing much? No. Would they have been useful in this game? Yes. Could they be useful later in the season too? Yes. I know Zidane wasn’t counting on them, but it makes no sense to me that Real Madrid are weakening this squad when we know that nobody else is coming in. At least now Zidane can play the old guard in every single match. They won’t need rest now that they won’t be playing every midweek.