Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić were all excellent as Real Madrid overcame Celta Vigo 3-1 on Saturday. It was an important win, one that answered a few questions and that generated a few more which we can ponder over the international break.
1. What system would we see this time?
Usually, we never really had to wonder about Real Madrid’s system. It was always 4-3-3. But, Zidane has been a lot more interesting in recent weeks and this was a genuine question that we had coming in to this game, even more so once we saw the line-up and theoretically saw four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards. But, how would they all fit together? Well, it was a very fluid line-up, but the average positions showed a 4-4-2 diamond, with Casemiro as the anchor, Luka Modrić leading the way, Toni Kroos on the left and Fede Valverde on the right. It worked really well and helped to overwhelm Renato Tapia, Celta Vigo’s second-most important player after Iago Aspas.
2. How much energy would Casemiro bring?
The positive of Casemiro being suspended for the Atalanta second leg is that he now has his slate of yellows wiped clear for the rest of the Champions League and that he would have extra energy for this weekend’s LaLiga match. And he certainly showed it. Casemiro was everywhere in this game, in defence and in attack, making his presence felt. While he wasn’t quite as precise as in some previous matches, he still made one very vital contribution as he got a touch on the late Iago Aspas freekick that hit the post. Had he not, perhaps it was going in.
3. How would the reunion with Melero López go?
Mario Melero López is a referee whose name provokes rage in Real Madrid circles. He was the VAR assistant who uttered the famous words of “todo okay, José Luis” in a match against Real Sociedad in January 2019, which caused fury at the Bernabéu once that audio came out. In the 26 months between that incident and this weekend’s game, he had only been given three Real Madrid matches as the main referee. Considering he’d been given three Real Madrid matches in 2018 alone, it’s clear that the federation have been trying to keep him away from Los Blancos as much as possible to limit the controversy. But, he was back in charge of Real Madrid in Vigo and, well, it was weird. He didn’t have any very high-profile decisions, but there were a number of strange and wrong ones, such as the Modrić yellow card for a ‘foul’ made while playing a pass, the Valverde shove on the sidelines or the non-handball called on Vinícius. Once again, Real Madrid are reportedly angry with Melero López. Some things don’t change...
1. Is Asensio becoming a super sub?
Just like he did against Atalanta, Marco Asensio came off the bench and scored. Again, his goal made for a 3-1 final score and again he made the most of the tired legs of the opposition. So, is Asensio’s best role right now to come off the bench as a super sub? Is he better off using his energy in the final stages of matches to try to score on the counter? Because all those weeks of him starting and meandering through matches did little to help the team. Putting in into numbers, Asensio has two goals and one assist from 1,370 minutes as a starter this season and two goals and one assist from 287 minutes as a substitute.
2. Will Benzema ever play for France again?
After the match, Zidane was asked in his post-match press conference to explain why Karim Benzema doesn’t get picked by France. “You don’t understand it, I don’t understand it and many people don’t understand it,” the coach said. Actually, it is quite easy to understand. Benzema doesn’t play for France because of completely non-sporting reasons and the history he has with Didier Deschamps ever since the Mathieu Valbuena incident. But, could Benzema play for France again if Deschamps were to leave? Well, there have been rumours about Zidane taking over Les Bleus after Euro 2020. You can imagine that the first name in Zidane’s hypothetical first France squad would begin with ‘k’ and end in ‘enzema’.
3. Will the FIFA virus affect Real Madrid?
It’s international break time and that means various Real Madrid players are heading off to link up with their national teams. “Some are going with their countries and that’s not ideal for me, as coach of Real Madrid, but it is what it is,” Zidane said after this game, while also confirming that Sergio Ramos will go off with Spain despite missing this game with a slight knock. Real Madrid need to hope now that everyone makes it back without injury, without too much fatigue and, most importantly, safe from the coronavirus.