Vinícius became even more of a hero for the Real Madrid fanbase on Sunday night, scoring a sensational winner for a 2-1 victory over Sevilla. After Rafa Mir and Karim Benzema’s first-half goals, it was the Brazilian who made the difference and who gave us a lot to talk about. So, let’s get into this game’s talking points through three questions and three answers.
1. What would give? Sevilla set piece offence or Real Madrid’s set piece defence?
Coming into this game, Sevilla were the team who had the most set piece goals in LaLiga Santander so far, with four dead ball passes that led to a goal, and Real Madrid were one of just three teams not to have conceded one so far. So, what would give? Well, early on it was Sevilla’s set piece delivery that came out on top, for Rafa Mir’s opening goal. It’s always frustrating to concede a set piece goal, but it should be kept in mind that Sevilla are one of the best teams in this regard and that there was a very good – and pushing the limits of legality – block from Diego Carlos to keep Militão and especially Ferland Mendy away from Rafa Mir. It was a well-executed corner kick from Sevilla. It’s something for Real Madrid’s defence to work on, but not something to panic about.
2. Would Ancelotti sit off or try to please the fans?
When Real Madrid played Shakhtar Donetsk at home, there were whistles from the Bernabéu crowd because Ancelotti decided he didn’t want his team to press given how the Ukrainians thrive when they are pressed. This gave the impression that Real Madrid were being passive or lacking in effort, but really it was just Ancelotti’s preferred way of controlling the game. With Sevilla coming to town, Real Madrid were now facing the best team they’ve hosted so far this season and another side who can play through a press like a hot knife through butter. So, what would Ancelotti do? He admitted after his Shakhtar tactics that “I should consider the reaction of the home crowd when deciding tactics, because the other day they didn’t like the way the team defended deeper”, so would he order his men to push high up the pitch and press, just to keep the fans happy? Well, Real Madrid didn’t press as much as the fans wanted. Especially in the first half, they often sat off Sevilla, which led to several periods of audible frustration from the home crowd as the Andalusians completed pass after pass. In the second half, Real Madrid pressed more. It still wasn’t very coordinated, but they were more ambitious and got the home fans on their side, which might ultimately have made the difference.
3. Ocampos vs Mendy? Who’d come out on top?
Coming into this game, the underrated battle to follow was Lucas Ocampos vs Ferland Mendy. These players bring energy to every game and they didn’t disappoint. Mendy did a generally good job of keeping the Argentine in check, while Ocampos also worked back well to track Mendy when the Frenchman went on his various adventures forward, breaking the lines. Ocampos and Mendy were among the two very best players on the pitch in this one.
1. What would have been different had Rodrygo started?
There was a late change to Ancelotti’s plans, as Rodrygo was out with a stomach bug and Marco Asensio came in last minute. They are two very different kinds of wingers, so would it have been much different had Rodrygo played instead? Well, Rodrygo certainly wouldn’t have drifted inside as much as Asensio did and the Brazilian might have attacked Sevilla left-back Marcos Acuña more, which might have been effective since he wasn’t 100 percent fit coming into this game. Dani Carvajal also seems to be more comfortable when playing with Rodrygo and he really seemed to miss the Brazilian’s natural winger play, with Carva making a few odd decisions in this one. Ultimately, Asensio did a decent job and having Rodrygo might not have changed much, other than producing a different kind of output from Los Blancos’ right flank.
2. Is Alaba totally fine then?
Despite the knee sprain suffered in Tiraspol in midweek, there was confidence from Ancelotti that David Alaba could still make this game. And he not only made the squad, but the Austrian played all 90 minutes. He looked fine, apart from the penalty that could have been awarded to Ocampos, but the centre-back showed no signs of any physical issue. He has been a machine on the pitch so far since arriving and it appears he’s a machine in recovery too. It seems he’s totally fine.
3. Do Real Madrid have the most dangerous long-range shooters in LaLiga?
Both of Real Madrid’s goals came from long range shots. There was the Vinícius beauty and the Benzema equaliser came after Bono spilled Éder Militão’s shot from distance. So, Real Madrid’s willingness to shoot on sight once again paid off. Real Madrid have been taking a lot of long-range shots this season, averaging 5.3 outside-the-box attempts per 90 minutes and adding another eight tonight. That’s fourth most in all of LaLiga and around one extra long-distance shot per game more than their main title rivals, with Atlético and Sevilla averaging 4.4, Barcelona 4.1 and Real Sociedad 3.8. Vinícius, Marco Asensio, David Alaba, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema have all scored from outside the area already this season, while we know Casemiro and Luka Modric are capable too. So, because of intent and quality, is Real Madrid’s squad the most dangerous in terms of long-range shooting in LaLiga?