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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s draw with Cádiz

Thoughts from the Bernabéu as the final home game of 2021 finished even.

Real Madrid CF v Cadiz CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Real Madrid’s winning streak has been halted at 10 in a row, with Cádiz holding Los Blancos to a frustrating goalless draw on Sunday night. These two dropped points will hurt for now, but there are surely many lessons to be learned from the struggles to break down the visitors’ low block. So, let’s look at three answers and three questions we got from this one.

Three answers

1. Would we see rotations beyond the absentees?

Given all the events of the past few days, Real Madrid had several players out for this game. In terms of starters, they were missing injured right-back Dani Carvajal and then COVID-19 had sidelined starting midfielder Luka Modrić and each of the job-sharing right wingers Rodrygo and Marco Asensio. So, there were at least three holes to fill, but would Ancelotti make more rotations beyond those absentees? Well, no. Besides the introductions of Lucas Vázquez, Fede Valverde and Eden Hazard at the three aforementioned positions, this was Los Blancos’ ‘Once de Gala’, their best XI.

2. What would we see from Hazard? And where?

We knew Hazard was going to start this match, because Ancelotti told us so in his pre-match press conference. So, what would we see from the Belgian? And where? He started on the right, but looked to drift centrally time and time again. In the first half, this did little to create any numerical advantages since Cádiz were happy to just ignore Lucas Vázquez and to track any run the Belgian made. In the second half, Hazard was more impactful, but he was often fouled any time he looked like breaking free. Hazard definitely put in effort, but if this was a chance to prove he deserves more minutes then he didn’t take it as he’d have liked.

3. How would Cádiz enjoy being back at the Bernabéu after 15 years.

This match was a fun one to be at because of the Cádiz fans. There were a couple hundred of them in the official away end, but there was a lot more yellow dotted around the rest of the stadium. For every security guard in a luminous jacket, there were three Cádiz fans in yellow too. Making a lot of noise, they enjoyed what was their first trip to the Bernabéu since 2006, earning a useful point for their quest for survival. They were supposed to have come twice since then, but the 2015/16 Copa del Rey second leg never took place because of the Denis Cheryshev disqualification, while last year’s Real Madrid vs Cádiz – which the Yellows won – was at Valdebebas. They have one of the best fanbases in the country and you have to hope they stay up so that they can visit the Bernabéu and LaLiga Santander’s other grounds again next season.

Three questions

1. Can lessons be learned from this?

There won’t be many opponents who defend as deep against Real Madrid as Cádiz did, with the relegation zone team the most low-blockiest of low-blocky teams in all of LaLiga. With an average of 36 percent possession this season, Cádiz have the lowest percentage in the division by far and Real Madrid couldn’t break them down despite having 82 percent of the ball on the night. That’s frustrating for this weekend, but there could be some positives in the long run as there will lessons to learn when rewatching the tape.

2. Is Mendy the right left-back for these kinds of games?

One of these lessons, for example, might be about how to use – or not use – Ferland Mendy against a low block. With the Frenchman the kind of full-back who prefers to drift inside, rather than make for the byline, he never helped Vinícius create much space against the deep-lying Cádiz back line. For the final minutes, Alaba moved to left-back, Mendy was taken off and Nacho assumed Alaba’s centre-back position. There wasn’t too much time for this to be effective, but Alaba did at least get to the byline once. Perhaps this would be a better option for matches against certain low blocks, or maybe Marcelo – who was one of the COVID-19 absentees this week – would actually be useful in such situations.

3. How will Ancelotti replace Casemiro for the trip to Bilbao?

By sliding in front behind to stop a Cádiz counter attack in the 26th minute, Casemiro picked up his fifth yellow card of the season and he was lucky it was only yellow. In any case, this means he’ll miss the trip to face Athletic Club at San Mamés on Wednesday. Other than a Clásico or derby, this might be the worst fixture to lose Casemiro for, as you want him shoring up your midfield when visiting one of the most physical teams in all of LaLiga. With Modrić also likely to miss the midweek game – even though he’s already tested negative, the Basque Country’s COVID-19 protocols could keep him sidelined – this creates a problem for Ancelotti. It looks like we’ll see a midfield of Valverde, Camavinga and Kroos against Athletic, which will at least make the last game of 2021 a very interesting one.