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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s win over Valencia

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It was a calm and comfortable win, but there are still many talking points to get stuck into.

Real Madrid v Valencia - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Real Madrid enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 victory over Valencia on Sunday. It was a sunny day, they collected three more points and everyone seemed happy… apart from Dani Carvajal. Here comes a breakdown of the match and of some of the main talking points.

Three answers

1. Would the back three formation stay?

Real Madrid dealt with the midweek Getafe fixture by using a new formation, playing three centre-backs and using wing-backs to compensate for the lack of personnel. With the injury report still a lengthy one, what would Zidane do against Valencia? The answer was that he returned to his favoured 4-3-3 formation with his trademark midfield three and with Marco Asensio and Vinícius flanking Karim Benzema in attack. It worked. Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić all played excellently and this was arguably the trio’s best performance of the season as a unit.

2. Would this be another Real Madrid vs Valencia goal fest?

Real Madrid vs Valencia is almost always a brilliant fixture for neutrals, as there are lots of goals and as Valencia tend to give Los Blancos a good game. There had been an average of 3.7 goals per game whenever these sides have met over the past eight seasons. So, were we going to get another goal fest? Well no, not so much. Real Madrid got the two goals they needed for the victory, while Valencia offered almost nothing. They didn’t have a single shot in the first half and only two – one on target and one off target – by the end of the game.

3. How would Carvajal do in his return?

Ehm… not great. This was another of the pre-match questions as Dani Carvajal came back to feature for the first time since January 2nd. But, he lasted just 25 minutes before suffering an injury relapse. It’s terrible luck for the team and for the Spaniard on an individual level. In recent years, he has suffered a number of injuries of all types. Up until the end of 2017, Carvajal had missed just 24 matches in his whole career due to injury. But, since then, injury has ruled him out of 57 games missed and counting. He’s had terrible luck.

Three questions

1. How significant will Carvajal’s absence be?

Sticking with the Carvajal topic, Zidane now needs to replace the Spaniard for the next several weeks and probably for the first leg against Atalanta. It’s unlikely that the right-back will be back for that European first leg. With Álvaro Odriozola also injured right now and generally not trusted by Zidane, it’ll be Lucas Vázquez who deputises for Carvajal for the most part, as he did after coming on against Valencia. But, even he has had some injury issues of late. Zidane had better hope that Lucas can stay fit and healthy because the other injuries at centre-back and left-back mean there are few alternatives if Lucas goes down with an issue too.

2. Does Zidane need to rotate more?

This is the eternal question. But, unlike in some previous seasons, I don’t think he does. Sure, Casemiro, Kroos and Modrić play every game. But, the early Super Cup and Copa del Rey exits mean that Real Madrid haven’t had many midweek fixtures so far in 2021. They tend to have seven days between fixtures and that’s plenty of time for the three midfielders – and other players who are rarely rested, like Benzema – to recover. So, I don’t think Zidane does need to rotate much more. He probably should, though, make sure to bring off some of these key players whenever Real Madrid boast a comfortable lead and there are 15 or 20 minutes to go, as he did in this match.

3. Is Mendy a false nine now?

Ferland Mendy’s recent forays forward have been… interesting. After he scored against Getafe in midweek from a Marcelo cross, he was back in the opposition penalty area again in this game and even had another goal, only for it to be ruled out for a slight offside. It’s interesting to see Mendy contributing so much more in attack and it has been happening so much that you have to assume this isn’t just coincidence. Instead, this must be what Zidane is instructing him to do. There’s still a lot to improve when it comes to the attacking side of Mendy’s game, but if he keeps getting better in this sense then there’s reason for optimism.