Real Madrid’s painful January continued with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Levante, in a game that was heavily conditioned by an early red card for Éder Militão. There’s lots to talk about and we do so here with three questions that were answered in this game and three new questions that were created.
1. Would it be home sweet home for Real Madrid?
This was Real Madrid’s first match at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano since January 2nd. After several weeks on the road, they were back at home. So, would it be a happy homecoming for the team? After a few disappointing results at Valdebebas earlier in the season, Real Madrid’s home form had picked up and they came into this game with five victories from their past five home matches. But, it wasn’t to be this time. There was further disappointment as they were picked apart by a good Levante side.
2. How would Real Madrid cope with all the absences?
Real Madrid came into this match with no Sergio Ramos, no Dani Carvajal, no Lucas Vázquez, no Nacho, no Fede Valverde, no Rodrygo and no Zinedine Zidane. How would they cope without all these players and without their coach? Well, not great. Militão got himself sent off and Álvaro Odriozola was a liability all game. Then, the options off the bench were poor too. The only good performance from a player who isn’t an undisputable starter was Marco Asensio’s.
3. Could Hazard make it two good performances in a row?
After playing really well away at Alavés last weekend, Eden Hazard was starting again and had the chance to make it two good performances in a row. He started well again in this game, playing a good pass to Karim Benzema before the Militão red card, even if the pass was a little overhit. But, Hazard faded once Real Madrid went down to 10. He was eventually replaced by Vinícius in the 60th minute.
1. Were the refereeing decisions correct?
The referee and the VAR room had a lot to do in this game. It started with the Militão red card call. Was it the correct decision? I think so. Although there were two teammates close by, he was the last man stopping Sergio León from scoring. Then there was the penalty given against Vinícius for a challenge on Carlos Clerc. Was this the right call? In this case, I’m not so sure. The Real Madrid players watching on from the stands and with access to the TV screens weren’t sure either and they could be heard shouting at the referee to take a look at the VAR screens. “It was outside the box!” Ramos and co. shouted.
2. Why wasn’t Víctor Chust brought on after the red card?
When Militão was sent off, Real Madrid’s response was to move Casemiro back into the centre-back position. Víctor Chust was the only natural centre-back option on the bench, but Real Madrid decided not to use him. After the match, David Bettoni was asked why that decision was made and he replied: “When Militão was sent off, my first thought was to put on a centre-back, but then with a cooler head, and having spoken with the head coach, I thought that Casemiro could play there since he’s done so in training.” It wasn’t the worst decision made on Saturday afternoon, as Casemiro performed well there, but the team did seem to miss his presence in midfield.
3. Will it be a trophyless season?
This has been a difficult January for Real Madrid. They failed to win the Super Cup, they were knocked out of the Copa del Rey and now they’ve thrown away further points in LaLiga. Atlético Madrid are seven points ahead of their rivals and could extend that to 10 with a win over Cádiz on Sunday. So, Real Madrid’s hopes of winning a title now rest on the Champions League. It’s a competition where they’ve obviously thrived in the past and now it’s surely their only hope of collecting silverware this campaign. Otherwise, it’ll be the first season since 2009/10 in which they’ve won absolutely nothing.