Real Madrid got back to winning ways in LaLiga Santander, with Karim Benzema’s 300th and 301st club goals and a Vinícius brace steering them to a 4-1 victory over Valencia. After a slow and uneventful start, there was a lot that happened in this game. So, here comes a look at the various questions and talking points from it.
1. Could Vinícius give Cristiano Piccini nightmares?
The biggest individual advantage Real Madrid have in most matches is Vinícius vs the opposition right-back. That was even more the case coming into this game, given that Valencia were without Thierry Correia and Dimitri Foulquier. This left Cristiano Piccini to play, just his third league start for Los Che of the season. He got destroyed at one Vini turn in the first half, but otherwise he largely kept the Brazilian in check in the opening 45 minutes. This was partly because Real Madrid failed to get the ball to their No.20 enough. Asensio and Lucas Vázquez played several crossfield balls to the left flank when they could, but Real Madrid still didn’t manage to get Vinícius on the ball as much as they should have. In the second half, that changed. Vínicius got on the ball a lot more and Piccini was one of the several Valencia defenders he ghosted through to score his first goal.
2. How would Hernández Hernández’s return to the Bernabéu go?
Real Madrid’s least favourite referee is Alejandro Hernández Hernández. A series of high-profile calls from the Canary Islander had seen him become persona non grata at the Bernabéu, with the official last refereeing at this stadium in February of 2018, a 5-2 win over Real Sociedad. He’d had nine Real Madrid matches since then, but never in front of a Madridista crowd. Tonight, he was finally back and given a reception as frosty as this cold January night. His handling of a few first-half fouls brought about a chant of “qué malo eres” – “you’re so bad, in English” – but then he gave the home fans something to cheer about by awarding the Casemiro penalty. It was a dubious spot kick to award, with Valencia’s official Twitter account even calling it a “robbery”. Yet, the visitors then got a penalty of their own in the second half. It was an eventful return then to the Bernabéu for Hernández Hernández, who is in the headlines once again.
3. Would Real Madrid be “too soft” against tough-tackling Valencia?
It was put to Carlo Ancelotti in the pre-match press conference that this game would bring a clash of styles, with Valencia leading LaLiga Santander in fouls committed with 309, while Real Madrid had committed the third-fewest with 217. The Italian was asked if these means Valencia are “too tough” and if Real Madrid are “two soft”, a theory he dismissed. In the game, his players showed that they weren’t going to be pushovers against Bordalás’ men. Real Madrid committed far fewer fouls than their opponents, with 15 compared to 24, but that is to be expected considering they had 67 percent possession. They stood up to the challenge and several players got in the Valencia players’ faces when it was needed, most notably and unsurprisingly Casemiro.
1. How many Real Madrid goals will Benzema reach?
He did it. Karim Benzema scored his 300th Real Madrid goal this Saturday night, brutally dispatching the penalty at the end of the first half, before adding his 301st as well late on. He is just the fourth player to hit this milestone, after Cristiano Ronaldo (450 goals), Raúl (323 goals) and Alfredo Di Stéfano (308 goals). The No.9 should soon overtake Di Stéfano and could catch Raúl next season too. With Benzema showing no signs of slowing down, even though he just turned 34, you wonder how many goals he can reach before he one day leaves the club.
The moment Benzema scored goal number 300 for Real Madrid. pic.twitter.com/lAgorIhg26— Euan McTear (@emctear) January 8, 2022
2. Will Casemiro set a personal record for yellow cards this year?
This was a good Casemiro performance, not just because he won the first-half penalty, but he did collect another booking and is now onto nine yellow cards across all competitions for the season. He is well on pace, then, to smash his personal record for yellow cards in one season, which is currently the 14 cautions reached in each of 2016/17, 2019/20 and 2020/21. As long as he isn’t getting sent off, which he just about managed in this game, then it’s not a major problem. But, he will surely have another LaLiga Santander yellow card suspension at some point and he’s just one booking away from a Champions League suspension too.
3. When are Real Madrid back in LaLiga Santander action?
With this victory, Real Madrid have got their title push back on track. But, it won’t be possible to build up any momentum since there’s now a lengthy wait until the next LaLiga Santander fixture. They don’t play in the league again until they host Elche on January 23rd, in 15 days. In the meantime, they have cup clashes as they’ll face Barcelona in the Supercopa on January 12th, then a potential Supercopa final on January 16th and then a Copa del Rey trip to Elche on January 19th, before facing the Franjiverdes again a few days later.