Real Madrid responded to a tough week by winning at Huesca this Saturday. After losing to Levante last weekend, after several midweek injuries and after going down 1-0, they fought back to win 2-1. Here comes a look at some of the questions that were answered and others that still need a response.
1. Would Nacho play and how would he do?
With Sergio Ramos still out injured and with Éder Militão suspended, it was logical to think that Nacho would simply slot in alongside Raphaël Varane for this game. That is what happened, but I had some doubts before the game. Just because Nacho is now testing negative for COVID-19 doesn’t mean that he is 100 percent ready to go. The effects of coronavirus can take some time for players to get over and especially in the case of someone who has diabetes, like Nacho does. I genuinely believed we might see Víctor Chust as I didn’t think Nacho would be 100 percent. From what we saw of Nacho in this game, he wasn’t at his sharpest, but he did well enough to support Varane. He deserves tremendous credit for answering the bell just four days after his first negative COVID-19 test.
2. How would Real Madrid break down Huesca’s back three?
Huesca came into this game in good form, as they’ve improved a lot under their new coach Pacheta. The main reason is the back three system that he has built, with Dimitris Siovas leading that back line and looking very comfortable in a scheme that he also played at Leganés last year. With Real Madrid only ever fielding one centre-forward in their starting line-up, you had to wonder how they would manage to break this defence down. There were some great individual moments from Marco Asensio and Vinícius as they tried to break through on their own, and they each came close, but the way Real Madrid eventually got their goals was through set pieces.
3. What would Zidane’s post-match press conference be like?
After Zinedine Zidane’s feisty Friday press conference, one question coming into this match was what his post-match media duties would look like. Well, he certainly wasn’t as angry in this press conference as in the pre-match one, but he wasn’t happy either. Most of the focus was on Sergio Ramos’ injury as this was the first opportunity the media had to ask the coach about this. But, one journalist asked Zidane why he had been so angry the day before and the coach basically ignored that question, instead giving a generic answer about being happy with the win.
1. Is Benzema Real Madrid’s freekick taker now?
It wasn’t his goal, but the freekick that Karim Benzema struck off the crossbar produced Real Madrid’s equaliser in this game. We’ll remember Varane bundling the ball over the line, but the strike from Benzema was quite special too as it almost sneaked in. Surely he has to be Real Madrid’s freekick taker now? At least until Ramos is back, but even afterwards he could be the one to take freekicks for the team. Benzema hasn’t taken many at all for Real Madrid, but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable. Just look at what he did with this one or at what Luis Suárez did with the freekick he took for Atlético Madrid last week against Cádiz. These two strikers never got the chance all these years they played with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Now, it’s their time to shine.
2. Who’s left for Tuesday night?
There’s not much rest for Real Madrid as their next match will be on Tuesday night against Getafe, one of their postponed LaLiga fixtures. For that game they’ll have most of the same absences as they did for this game, although Militão will be back from suspension and Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vázquez could return too. But, now Toni Kroos is suspended and Álvaro Odriozola went off with an injury too. The Kroos absence is particularly problematic given the injuries to Fede Valverde and Isco and the fact that Martin Ødegaard was allowed to go to Arsenal. There could be a big midfield hole to fill this midweek.
3. Why did Ramos play in that Super Cup semi-final?
One of the absences, of course, is that of Sergio Ramos. He has gone for surgery and is set to miss around 80 days total, which will make this the longest injury of his Real Madrid career – even longer than the Achilles issue he suffered through the summer of 2009. He hasn’t played since the Super Cup semi-final against Athletic Club on January 14th, but you have to ask why he even played in that game. The defender felt discomfort in the warm-up of that game, but played the whole 90 minutes anyway. Did that aggravate the issue? Could it have been prevented? Why was that risk taken when Zidane is usually so cautious about these things? It’s a mystery to me.