The big Real Madrid news of Wednesday night might have been Florentino Pérez’s latest interview, but there was some actual football too as the team went away to Cádiz and won 3-0 with all of the goals coming in the first half. It was a game with lots of interesting discussion points, several of which are looked at below in the form of three questions that were answered and three questions that need answering.
1. Which one of Nacho or Varane would replace Chust?
Earlier in the year, when Sergio Ramos was first injured, the Real Madrid starting central defensive partnership became Nacho and Raphaël Varane. Both of these players were back in the squad for this trip to Cádiz after missing out on Sunday because of suspension and COVID-19 respectively. So, which one would replace Víctor Chust and partner Éder Militão? Because surely Militão’s performances had been so good that he was un-droppable. Well, the answer was that they would both replace Chust. Zidane returned to the three centre-backs formation for this game and it worked. Not just because Thibaut Courtois finally enjoyed a quiet game, but because it allowed Marcelo and Álvaro Odriozola to make a big impact down the wings.
2. Would Carvajal make his return?
Dani Carvajal was back in the squad for this game, so the big question was if and how much he would play. Well, he came on for the final half hour when the score was already 3-0 and when Real Madrid were cruising. Carvajal was quite good and completed 32 of his 33 passes, but the one time he did give the ball away led to a Cádiz chance. It’s normal for a player to make an error or two when coming back after so long. Remember, Carvajal hadn’t played since February 14th and, even then, he was only just making a return from injury. This was the perfect way for him to recover some match sharpness, doing so by coming on in a game that was already won.
3. Would we get a meeting of brothers?
Nacho’s brother Álex Fernández plays for Cádiz and would have been going up against his brother in this game. Well, he apart from the fact that an injury ruled the winger out of this game the day beforehand. It would have been cool to see Nacho go up against Álex in this one, as they did in the first meeting this season, but it wasn’t to be this time around.
1. What does the future hold for Antonio Blanco?
Antonio Blanco got his first start, deployed in central midfield alongside Casemiro and given all 90 minutes. That was after also being given the final 25 minutes against Getafe on Sunday, after playing all 90 minutes for Castilla on Saturday. It has certainly been a busy few days for Blanco, but he has absolutely lived up to expectations. He brought energy to this game against Cádiz and confidence too, even trying a long-range shot in the first few minutes that deflected out for a corner. The worst thing a youngster can do when making their first appearances for Real Madrid is to let the game pass them by, to wait for things to happen to them. Blanco didn’t do that. He went out and was proactive, making things happen for him. Now, we have to wonder what the future holds. He’ll turn 21 this summer, so maybe a promotion to the 2021/22 first-team squad would be too premature. Then again, he might be a zero-cost option to bolster a thin position.
2. When will we next see five Brazilians together in the line-up?
One interesting quirk of the line-up in this game was that five Brazilians started for Real Madrid: Éder Militão, Marcelo, Casemiro, Rodrygo and Vinícius. That hadn’t happened for 15 years, not since the 2005/06 season when Cicinho, Roberto Carlos, Júlio Baptista, Robinho and Ronaldo played together. So, how long will we wait until we have five Brazilians together in the line-up again? Not another 15 years I don’t think. Not if Juni Calafat keeps having an influence on the club’s transfer targets.
3. What will that goal do for Odriozola’s confidence?
Álvaro Odriozola scored what was just his second goal for Real Madrid, his first in LaLiga for the club after only ever scoring in the Copa del Rey for Los Blancos – vs Melilla in 2018/19. This could be a really important goal psychologically for the Basque. He hasn’t had a great time of it at Real Madrid, but a goal always boosts confidence. Importantly, the goal also justifies the fact that Odriozola has been getting really far forward in his most recent appearances. Odriozola probably wasn’t supposed to be in the six-yard box, but it paid off and helps justify his next forays forward. And that’s significant because he’ll surely have some big minutes to play before the end of the season, as Carvajal won’t be able to play 90 minutes twice a week every week from here to the end of the season.