Real Madrid played out a goalless draw against Real Betis on Saturday night, one that could be pivotal in the title race. There’s so much to discuss and we do so here in the form of three questions that were answered and three questions that now need answering.
1. How would Pellegrini do against his former club?
Manuel Pellegrini was back taking on his former club in this game. The man who was in charge of Real Madrid in 2009/10 was bringing his solid and possession-loving Real Betis side to Valdebebas. And he had a game plan that worked perfectly. Real Betis like to keep the ball, but were willing to concede it in this game and to instead work on keeping Real Madrid’s lethargic attack at arm’s length. Pellegrini went away from what Real Betis usually are - which Nabil Fekir’s suspension might actually have made easier to do - and it worked for him as Real Betis earned a point. “They didn’t even create all that much against us,” he said after the game as he explained why a draw was a fair result. He’s right.
2. How much would Real Madrid keep back for Chelsea?
With Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals coming up on Tuesday and with several members of this Real Madrid squad absolutely shattered, how much would Real Madrid withhold in this LaLiga game? How much would minds be on Tuesday? Well, Vinícius didn’t start in order to earn some rest ahead of Tuesday and that was a big loss, especially as he was so bright when he came on. Rodrygo had one really nice piece of play in the first half when he won the ball himself and drove forward to earn a corner out of nothing, but there wasn’t much else. Vinícius would surely have done a better job, but he’s being kept for Tuesday. Then, just in general, there was a lethargic nature to several other players in the team. Some might say they were keeping gas in the tank for Tuesday. Others might say there simply isn’t much gas to begin with.
3. Would Carvajal be the real Carvajal?
After coming on for a run-out in the second half at Cádiz, Dani Carvajal was given a start in this game. So, how would he look? Well, he wasn’t 100 percent Carvajal, but he wasn’t far off. He did well to deal with the threat of Joaquín in defence, while he got forward a decent amount in attack and put in several crosses that nobody could make the most of. You really notice a difference when it’s Carvajal crossing the ball, as he can do it from much deeper than Álvaro Odriozola or Lucas Vázquez can. It didn’t fully work out for Real Madrid in this game as they didn’t win, but Carvajal should be even closer to 100 percent for the Chelsea game on Tuesday. He must start.
1. Will Hazard start against his former club?
This, for me, is the big question of the week. Eden Hazard only had 13 minutes plus stoppage time, but he did so much in the little time he was on the pitch against Real Betis. His stats hardly do him justice, but he passed the eye test for everyone watching as he brought some creativity to the Real Madrid attack, something that was clearly lacking. So, will he start on Tuesday against Chelsea? I think he might. He has been training with the group for a couple of weeks already, but has been very slowly eased back into proceedings to ensure he doesn’t break down again. The schedule of his return might even have been shaped with this semi-final in mind. It’s almost impossible that he’ll play 90 minutes against Chelsea, but he could certainly start. It would add a spark that Real Madrid’s attack lacked tonight.
2. How costly will these two points be?
So, Real Madrid dropped two points. But, let’s remember that their three title rivals still haven’t played this weekend. That’s something that Zidane himself brought up in his post-match press conference. Real Madrid were the first of the title challengers to play this matchday, while Barcelona must visit Villarreal, Atlético must visit Athletic and Sevilla have a home Andalusian derby against Granada on Sunday. Those are not easy fixtures at all. So, these are two points dropped by Real Madrid right now. But, by the end of Sunday, other teams might have dropped two or even all three points too.
3. Why does the rain in Spain fall mostly on Valdebebas?
Have you started to get that feeling while watching Real Madrid home games? About how it always seems to be a monsoon? It was the case against Eibar, Barcelona and now also against Real Betis. Real Madrid’s recent home games, with the exception of the Liverpool one, have been played in torrential rain. It’s quite odd. April is the rainy month in Madrid, that’s true. But, as someone who lives in Madrid, I can tell you that it hasn’t rained nearly as much as it might seem from watching Real Madrid on TV. It just seems to be that the rainiest days coincide with home Real Madrid games. So, pack your umbrella if you’re in Madrid on Tuesday…