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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s win in Valladolid

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Some thoughts on this victory and what it might mean for the return of the Champions League.

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

It’s now four wins in a row for Real Madrid and they’re closing in on Atlético Madrid at the top of the LaLiga Santander table. The latest victory was a 1-0 win away at Real Valladolid and several of the match’s talking points are discussed below in the form of three questions that were answered and three new questions that we have going forward.

Three answers

1. Which senior player would be left on the bench?

Because of Real Madrid’s injury crisis, Zidane only had 11 first-team outfielders available for this match away at Real Valladolid. That’s not many at all, but it did mean there would be one and only one left on the bench for this game. So, who would be the unfortunate senior player who didn’t make the cut? Well, the answer was Isco and that’s not too surprising. He eventually got to come on in the 66th minute, but didn’t do much when he was introduced. There was one classic piece of Isco play down the left wing as he neatly dribbled away from a couple of players and then passed the ball backwards anyway at the end of the move. A piece of pretty-but-pointless play.

2. How would Mariano do filling in for Benzema?

With Karim Benzema injured and with Luka Jović playing in Frankfurt, Mariano was given the chance to lead the line for Real Madrid in Valladolid. So, how would he do? The striker actually boasts a decent scoring rate as he came into this game with one goal for every 130 minutes in the Real Madrid shirt, but he couldn’t get a goal in this one. At least not a goal that counted. Twice Mariano put the ball in the back of the net, but twice the effort was ruled out for offside. This isn’t necessarily all bad, though. Real Madrid still managed to win, he should be able to shake off some rust in terms of timing his runs well and he should be filled with confidence because he knows his two finishes past Jordi Masip were good. If Benzema remains out and if Mariano is called upon again, he should be even more ready.

3. Would Zidane be able to rotate at all?

With Atalanta coming up on Wednesday, Zidane would ideally have liked to make one or two rotations in this game. If not from the start, then at least during the match. But, with so many injuries this didn’t look like it would be possible and so it proved. The only substitutions Zidane made was with the triple change midway through the second half to switch around his entire front line. Even though these substitutions were made just after Casemiro’s goal, the reasoning was surely tactical as Zidane planned these changes while the scoreline was still 0-0. So, the coach was at no point able to take off one of his starters just to give them a rest. The back four and the midfield three played the full 90 minutes and those seven players will surely start in Italy on Wednesday too.

Three questions

1. Will Courtois win the Zamora again?

Thibaut Courtois, ladies and gentlemen. This was a special performance from the Real Madrid goalkeeper as he made several impressive saves to keep his side in the game. Courtois was one of the most important members of the squad as Real Madrid marched to the title down the stretch last season and he could be during this year’s title race too. His efforts last year won him the Zamora Trophy as the goalkeeper with the best goals conceded per game ratio in the division. This year, he is currently conceding just 0.79 goals per game. Only Bono (0.68) and Jan Oblak (0.70) have better ratios right now, so a fourth Zamora Trophy of his career is possible for Courtois.

2. Will this end up being Casemiro’s best scoring season?

In the absence of so many players, Casemiro was the leader in this game. He was everywhere. In the second half, after one of Courtois’ great saves, the TV broadcast showed a close up of Casemiro grabbing the net in frustration inside Real Madrid’s own goal. A few minutes later, he was up at the other end heading the ball into the other net. It’s true that he’d had some other decent chances to score before the one where he did, but that goal once again showed that Casemiro is one of Real Madrid’s main threats outside their front line. In fact, he is the team’s second-top scorer. With six goals altogether so far this season, the Brazilian is just one away from equalling his previous best of seven goals in 2017/18. Will he match that or surpass it? Probably.

3. Will Benzema be back for the Atalanta game?

The next match is a huge one as Real Madrid face Atalanta in the Champions League. They’ll still have several players out with injury for this one, but Benzema is the player who the big question marks surround. As explained above, Mariano should be better prepared if he has to start in Italy. But, obviously, Real Madrid would much prefer to have their top scorer available. Asked about Benzema’s status in his post-match press conference, Zidane said: “We’ll see tomorrow. I think he has another scan tomorrow. But, today I can’t say anything. He’s doing a little better and we’ll see tomorrow, but we’re not risking him. There are many matches left in this long season. If he can be with us then he will be.”