Real Madrid’s winning run came to an end with a 1-1 draw against Real Sociedad, but the performance was good. It’s a game where the major turning point was at the start of the second half as Real Madrid switched up their tactics. Zidane spoke about that afterwards, so there’s a lot to ask and a lot to discuss.
1. Would Real Madrid keep their momentum going into the derby?
The three points on offer in this game were the most important, but also important was momentum. The derby is coming up on Sunday and Atlético Madrid just enjoyed a huge injection of confidence with their victory over Villarreal, so Real Madrid would really have wanted to make it six wins in a row going into that game at the Wanda Metropolitano. They couldn’t do it and momentum has been halted. A derby is a derby and anything can happen, but Atleti will be even more energised by these Matchday 25 results.
2. Would any of the injured players come back in?
Zidane recovered four players for this match: Marcelo, Álvaro Odriozola, Fede Valverde and Rodrygo. It was always unlikely that he’d use any of them from the start, although the option of Odriozola at right-back was a possibility. In the end, none of this quartet started. Then, Rodrygo and Fede Valverde came on in the second half. Valverde was key in the build-up to the equaliser and Rodrygo was also energetic after his long layoff.
3. Could Real Madrid dominate in the air?
Real Madrid are the team with the most headed goals in LaLiga so far this season, with 11 so far. In the absence of their ideal front line, set pieces and crosses to those arriving from deep could have been key against a Real Sociedad side who only win 50% of their aerial duels. There were chances and Mariano almost scored such a goal in the first half, when the ball hit the crossbar. But, Real Sociedad had one of their best matches in a defensive sense and in terms of aerial play. That frustrated Los Blancos.
1. What was Zidane thinking?
The first half saw Real Madrid play some of their best football of the season. They created chances and seemingly had Real Sociedad on the ropes. But, Zidane didn’t like Real Madrid’s pressing, as he explained in a post-match interview, and he changed the system to drop Casemiro further back and to try to push the full-backs up. But, Real Sociedad’s best 10 minutes of the game were the first 10 minutes of the second half and that’s when they scored. Real Madrid switched back to a 4-3-3 and were better again. So, what was Zidane thinking? Well, he was thinking about the pressing. It’s easy for us to sit a judge and it might be that Zidane was wrong, but he had his reasons. It just didn’t come off this time.
2. How will Real Madrid cope without Casemiro against Atalanta?
Casemiro was absolutely everywhere in this game. In central defence, in defensive midfield, in attacking midfield, in the opposition box, in every set piece, in penalty shouts, in the referee’s face, in everything. He had more shots than anyone in the game with six. He won more aerial duels than anyone with six. It was impressive. His heatmap just looked like a whole orange rectangle. So, Real Madrid need to already start thinking about how to replace Casemiro and his energy for the second leg vs Atalanta, for which the Brazilian is suspended. The good news, at least, is that Fede Valverde is back.
3. Can we please not pretend like Vinícius is Ronaldo Nazário?
So, Vinícius got the equaliser and it’s his fourth goal of the season. But, please can we not pretend he’s suddenly discovered how to finish. This was his 100th appearance for Real Madrid and, still just 20 years old, that really is incredible. But, let’s not be tempted to wonder if Vinícius has suddenly found his finishing boots. If his shot wasn’t deflected off Igor Zubeldia then it was going straight at Alex Remiro and was probably getting saved. The Brazilian did well, but let’s not pretend like it was a good finish.