Real Madrid were able to rest some players and still earn a 2-0 win over Eibar on Saturday, a result that could have been even larger as three goals were disallowed for offside. With Liverpool up next, there are several questions that have been answered and several more that will now be tackled over the next few days.
1. What kind of team would Zidane be able to put together?
It’s always difficult for a club like Real Madrid after an international break, with some players having been away getting fatigued and with others growing rusty. So, what kind of a team would Zidane be able to put together for this one? Well, he managed to give Raphaël Varane a breather after playing the full game with France on Wednesday. And Zidane also managed to ease Toni Kroos back into proceedings following his injury. The Frenchman opted for a back three look once again and Real Madrid are seemingly more and more comfortable in these new-look formations that Zidane has been experimenting with.
2. How would Real Madrid cope with Eibar’s press?
Eibar are one of the very best teams in LaLiga when it comes to pressing. They have a 31.9% pressing success rate, according to FBref, the second highest in LaLiga and only behind Sevilla. So, how would Real Madrid cope? Well, there were a few awkward moments when passing out from the back throughout this game, with the absences of Sergio Ramos and of Toni Kroos, for most of the game, very noticeable. But, Luka Modrić did a good job of helping his back line out and Real Madrid actually created several chances from breaking the press. The second half wind and rain made it difficult to pass out from the back again, as the wind was really going against Real Madrid at that point, but Los Blancos passed this difficult test well.
3. How would the referee do in his first Real Madrid game?
This was referee Isidro Díaz de Mera Escuderos’s first ever Real Madrid match. He only just got promoted from the second division to the first tier last summer and, to be perfectly honest, has not had the best debut season as a top-flight official. So, how would he do in this game? Well, pretty well largely. He didn’t have any major calls and only really annoyed Real Madrid when he blew for half time immediately as they took a short corner at the end of the first half - which was silly from Real Madrid anyway considering the one minute of added time had already been completed. You have to just put the ball in the mixer in that situation. There was a half-hearted penalty appeal from Casemiro in the first half, that was well waved away. That means Real Madrid have now gone 23 LaLiga rounds without a penalty, their longest drought since 1974, but that wasn’t this referee’s fault and he did well.
1. Will both Marcelo and Mendy start against Liverpool?
It looks like the back three is here to stay. Zidane deployed it again in this game, even if the formation often shifted to a back four depending on the circumstances of the moment, and both Marcelo and Ferland Mendy started in this formation. That was partly because Sergio Ramos is injured and Raphaël Varane was being rested, but could we see both the left-backs start against Liverpool? Marcelo looks so much more comfortable in a left-wing-back role with fewer defensive responsibilities, and he absolutely destroyed Alex Pozo in this game, while Mendy can perform the defensive duties on the left side of defence while still getting forward enough to cause the opposition problems. Remember, Marcelo even assisted a Mendy goal against Getafe recently when they both played together in a back three system. Whatever Zidane opts for on the left, it’ll be fascinating up against Trent Alexander-Arnold.
2. Can Militão come good?
Éder Militão really hasn’t lived up to his €50m price tag so far at Real Madrid, but he had an excellent performance in this game. Although there were a few wobbly passes as Eibar’s press caused him some issues, Militão was completely solid defensively and Zidane even singled him out for praise after the match. This is the kind of performance the Brazilian needed ahead of a month in which he’ll surely have a lot of minutes due to Sergio Ramos’ latest injury. As the second-most expensive player in the squad, only behind Eden Hazard in that regard, it’s time for Militão to step up. Maybe he can still come good. He’s still only 23.
3. Zidane has hit 250 matches as coach. How many more will he reach?
This was Zinedine Zidane’s 250th match as coach of Real Madrid, another milestone for the Frenchman. It’s 165 wins, 50 draws and 35 defeats, making for a winning percentage of 66%. But, how many more matches will Zidane coach for Real Madrid? He has often mentioned in press conferences this season that he won’t be in charge of Los Blancos forever and did so again in today’s post-match interview with RMTV. “I enjoy the present because this will end one day,” he said. Hmmm. Will he step aside sooner rather than later?