Real Madrid have dropped their first points of the 2022/23 season, being held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Osasuna in the first match back after the international break. Following Vinícius and Kike García goals, Karim Benzema could have won it for the capital city side, but rattled the crossbar with a penalty. After this first setback of the campaign, here come three pre-match questions that were answered and three post-match questions we now have.
1. Would Real Madrid keep up their good post-break record?
Some clubs really struggle after the international break, but Real Madrid have had a generally good record in the rounds after FIFA international matches. In the past decade, Los Blancos had taken 75 percent of possible points from normal matchdays and that only dropped slightly to 73.3 percent in post-break matchdays. With Ancelotti last season, Real Madrid won four and lost one of their five matches after international breaks, so it seemed the squad was deep enough to cope with these hypothetically trickier rounds. And what about this Sunday night? Well, it wasn’t to be for Real Madrid. More than a symptom of the international break, this draw probably says a lot more about how good Osasuna actually are. This is a solid well-drilled team, fifth in the table for a reason.
2. Could Lunin secure the first clean sheet of the league season?
In the hours before the game, it was announced that Thibaut Courtois would have to sit this one out due to a back injury. So, Andriy Lunin was given a rare chance between the posts. That presented him with the opportunity to secure Real Madrid’s first clean sheet of this LaLiga season. As good as Courtois has been, the Belgian hadn’t managed to keep out the opposition so far this campaign, conceding one goal in each of Los Blancos’ six league victories so far. But, the Ukrainian wasn’t able to either and it’s true that he probably should have done better with the Osasuna equaliser, or at least put himself in a better position to do so.
3. How would the new Bernabéu pitch look?
After the terrible Bernabéu pitch couldn’t be saved, Real Madrid used the international break to install new turf at the stadium, this time bringing in grass from Ávila. So, how would it look? Well, on first look, the pitch looks in good condition. That said, the previous pitch had also looked good the first time it was used, in the Real Betis game. Plus, there were a lot more groundspeople than usual working on it at half time, probably just to make sure any problems could be spotted. So, let’s wait and see.
1. Will Benzema ever score against Sergio Herrera?
This was the sixth time Karim Benzema faced Sergio Herrera and the sixth time he failed to score against the goalkeeper. After tonight’s match, Herrera is now the goalkeeper who Benzema has faced the most times in his career without ever scoring. It has been a fun duel over the years, with the shot-stopper parrying two Benzema penalties in one match last season. Perhaps that went through Benzema’s mind as he struck the crossbar with the penalty here. It wasn’t a good Benzema performance, with zero shots on target, but we have to remember that he has just returned from an injury and that it might take a while for the No.9 to get back up to speed.
2. Should the Vinícius goal have stood?
Vinícius is go good at finishing now that he even puts the ball in the back of the net when he’s crossing. That’s how Real Madrid opened the scoring here, as the Brazilian’s ball went all the way in. But, there was a pause before it was awarded because of a possible offside, with the VAR team ultimately deciding that the goal was legal. But, this sparked a big debate in the Bernabéu press area, since Benzema and Antonio Rüdiger were both in offside positions. Neither made contact with the ball, nor was either player close to reaching it, but it could be argued that their presence was the reason why Herrera stayed central. Real Madrid fans will say it was legal. Anti-Madridistas will say it wasn’t. What’s interesting is that neutral commentators were split down the middle in their opinions on the matter. Sometimes not even offside decisions are objective and clear-cut.
3. How will Real Madrid respond to this first setback of the season?
Until now, Real Madrid had won all nine of their matches in 2022/23 and they were only two more victories away from matching the club record. But, they dropped points for the first time this campaign and it’ll be very interesting to see how they respond. Momentum breeds momentum, but this draw combined with the international break will make it at least two and a half weeks without that winning feeling. Let’s see if the team can bounce back vs Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.