Osasuna made Real Madrid sweat for their victory, but goals from São Paulo duo Éder Militão and Casemiro eventually earned Los Blancos a 2-0 victory. It’s a huge result and here comes a look at some queries that this match cleared up and also at new questions the events of Saturday night have generated.
1. How much rotation would we get?
After the Chelsea game on Tuesday, Zidane hinted that he would make a few rotations for this game against Osasuna. Then, in his pre-match press conference on Friday, he backtracked a little. So, as kick-off approached, this was the major question. Who would be rested, if anyone? The answer is that Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos were the duo given a breather, and they really needed it. They’ve both played over 3,000 minutes already and hadn’t been as fresh in recent weeks. Rotations wise, it would also have been nice to see Karim Benzema not play the full 90 minutes, but Zidane couldn’t really do much more. This was a good night for Real Madrid, as they got the three points and managed to hand out some rest along the way.
2. How would Hazard do in his first start since January?
After coming off the bench against Real Betis and against Chelsea, Eden Hazard was well and truly back by starting this game. The Belgian had his first start since January 30th and it was in a unique position too, as he was the No.10 in a 4-2-3-1 formation. And he was excellent in the first half, pulling the strings and getting into the box when he could. But for a spectacular Sergio Herrera save, Hazard would even have opened the scoring. “He was good, especially in that position, close to Benzema,” Zidane said of Hazard after the game. And it’s true. Hazard did do especially well in that playmaking role, even better than he has done when he has been out wide and tasked with dribbling past his full-back. Here, in this position, he just needed to play one or two nice touches at the right moment to make things happen. And things happened.
3. Would it be yet another 0-0 draw?
Around the 70th minute mark, you had the feeling that this might be another 0-0. With three goalless draws from the five matches before this game, it looked like this might end up being a fourth from six. But, that’s when Militão leapt up and got the goal he had been searching for all night. Real Madrid still have many offensive issues, but their defence remains rock solid and they’re usually able to do just about enough in attack to get the win.
1. Did Casemiro mean it?
The second goal was scored by Casemiro and it was a strange one. As Benzema played a beautiful through ball that took out multiple defenders in an instant, Casemiro broke through and, seemingly, miscontrolled it into the net. It looked like he was trying to take possession of the ball, but his first touch caught out himself and Herrera. So, did he mean it? Surely not, but it’s a goal all the same.
2. How serious is Varane’s injury?
At the start of the second half, Nacho appeared and he came on for Varane. That instantly created a question. Was Varane injured? Because why else would Zidane make a like-for-like swap at that stage of the game. Well yes, it turns out that Varane did suffer pain in his right leg. “I spoke with him and he said it’s nothing major and we hope that’s the case,” Zidane revealed in his post-match press conference. With Chelsea coming up on Wednesday, it’s certainly going to be a race against time to see if he can play.
3. Is Militão the new Ramos?
Sergio Ramos is still out with his own injury, but Real Madrid haven’t missed him too much of late. They’ve been collecting clean sheet after clean sheet even without their captain. Then, in this game, Militão took on the attacking centre-back Ramos role. The Brazilian provoked two saves from Herrera in the first half and then attempted a volley in the second half too as he sought a goal whenever he was summoned upfield. Then, in the 76th minute, he was the one to break the deadlock at the fourth attempt. It was Ramos-esque the way Militão attacked and attacked in this game. Can he be the new Ramos, then, in defence and at attacking set pieces?