After several matches with lots of goals, Real Madrid played out their first goalless game of the 2021/22 season. Even without any rippling of the net, their match against the Europa League champions conjured up some interesting talking points and we take a look at them here.
1. Would Ancelotti drop Asensio?
On Wednesday, against Real Mallorca, Marco Asensio had a big night with his three goals. But, he only played in that game in order to give Luka Modric a rest. So, would Asensio manage to keep his spot? That was a big pre-match question and, in his pre-match press conference, Ancelotti seemed to be suggesting that the Mallorcan would be benched again, despite his hat-trick. “If you give a player a rest and the replacement does very well, it’s tough when you need to then bench that replacement player who came in” was the particular line that suggested Asensio was going back to the sidelines. But, then he didn’t. Ancelotti trusted the Spaniard to start again, even saying in his post-match comments that he moved Fede Valverde to right-back in order to fit Asensio in. He certainly wasn’t as effective in his new midfield role this time around, but Ancelotti clearly sees something there.
2. Would Villarreal do what they always do and draw?
Yes, it was another draw for Villarreal. They’re such a strange team, having now drawn seven of their eight matches so far this season. The Yellow Submarine rarely win, but they’re so tough to beat too. It’s easy to see why, since they once again had a lot of pointless possession, keeping the ball away from Real Madrid without threatening too much themselves. These two dropped points shouldn’t be too big a problem for Los Blancos in the grand scheme of things, as Villarreal will cause problems to the other title contenders over the course of the campaign.
3. Would Gil Manzano make the headlines?
Jesús Gil Manzano was the referee for this match, which was a little surprising given how controversial he was in last weekend’s Atlético vs Athletic game. Now officiating the other capital city side, would he be able to enjoy a calm night or would he make the headlines again? Well, the answer is that he did create headlines once more, this time for not awarding a potential penalty to Nacho. Speaking after the game, Thibaut Courtois suggested that Gil Manzano didn’t want to award Real Madrid a penalty just seven days after his performance infuriated the red and white half of Madrid. “We know what he called last week and where he officiated and that there was a lot of talk about that,” was how Courtois put it.
1. Camavinga over Casemiro?
Everybody loves Eduardo Camavinga. At the Bernabéu, he’s already their darling. At the same time, most Real Madrid fans can admit that Casemiro hasn’t had the best start to the season. So, should there be a change? Should Camavinga be ahead of Casemiro in the starting line-up? The Frenchman did so well in the Case-role on Wednesday against Real Mallorca, although that was, remember, only Real Mallorca. Could he do better than the Brazilian in big games? We won’t know until we see it, but we also shouldn’t expect to see it, given the way Ancelotti has frequently talked about how important experience is in the Champions League.
2. Will we see Fede Valverde at right-back again?
There are positive memories of Fede Valverde playing at right-back, after he did so well filling in there during the Champions League tie against Liverpool last year. But, that’s not the Uruguayan’s position and it’s not his position for a reason. He really struggled in the false No.2 position in this one, as Arnaut Danjuma clearly won their battle. With Dani Carvajal out injured, though, and with Nacho and Lucas Vázquez not entirely convincing at right-back either, we could see Valverde back on the right of defence in future games.
3. What happened with the press?
Beyond the fact that Real Madrid dropped two valuable points, the bigger concern is that Real Madrid’s press was thoroughly exposed in this game. Villarreal are a good team with the ball, but Real Madrid made them look even better in possession than they actually are by pressing horrendously. There was no coordination and Karim Benzema grew visibly frustrated with his colleagues in the forward line. This is something Los Blancos must work on since several more possession-based teams are on the schedule in the near future.