Going away to Elche just days after El Clásico was a potentially tricky assignment for Real Madrid, but Los Blancos passed with flying colours as they won 3-0 and also had three goals disallowed for offsides. With the ball hitting the back of the net six times, there’s a lot to discuss, so let’s get into the three answers and three questions from this game.
1. Would Real Madrid suffer a Clásico hangover?
Real Madrid made a major statement by winning Sunday’s Clásico, but they then needed to hold serve by winning this ‘easier’ game to make that victory over Barça truly count. So, would they suffer a Clásico hangover? It’s something that has happened in the past. Of Los Blancos’ past five Clásico victories, they’ve only won the following game once, while having three draws and one defeat. Just last season, they followed up their October Clásico win with a draw against Osasuna, for example. But, there was no hangover here. Carlo Ancelotti insisted in the pre-match that his side take this game seriously and they absolutely did, from minute one.
2. Is this version of Kroos better suited than ever to the holding midfield role?
Given the potential for this to be a tricky game, Ancelotti didn’t make too many rotations. But, he did leave Aurélien Tchouaméni out of the starting line-up and deployed Toni Kroos in the holding midfield role. The German has often struggled when he has had to play there in the past, usually when he was filling in for Casemiro, but there’s something different about Kroos this season. He has an extra grit to his game right now and is defending better than ever before. So, would the 2022/23 version of Kroos be better suited than ever to the holding midfield role? Well, he did really well there in this game, albeit against weaker opposition. Kroos remains in excellent form and it’s encouraging to think that he is playing in a way that means he can probably fill in for Tchouaméni throughout this season without the defence suffering.
3. Would Benzema be able to celebrate his Ballon d’Or with a goal?
From minute one, you could tell that Karim Benzema wanted to get on the scoresheet in Elche. After winning his well-deserved 2022 Ballon d’Or on Monday, he wanted to prove he is still the top player this season. But, it started off as a frustrating night for Benzema, as he had one goal ruled out for offside in the sixth minute, had an assist ruled out for offside in the 27th minute and had another goal ruled out for offside in the 61st minute. But, he kept persisting and finally got the goal his play deserved, combining well with Rodrygo in the 75th minute and finishing well.
1. What are the chances of a team having three goals ruled out by VAR?
Each of the three goals that were ruled out for offside were correctly ruled out, but still, it was strange to see Real Madrid three times denied by VAR in one game. What are the chances of that, you might have wondered. Well, it literally hadn’t happened before in a LaLiga Santander match since VAR was implemented. Teams have had three goals disallowed before, on a few occasions, but never before had there been three situations where the on-field officials gave the goal as good before the VAR team intervened to overturn those decisions and cancel the goal. So, it was literally a historic night in that sense.
2. Are Benzema’s offsides a concern?
Having so many offsides might just be put down to bad luck. However, Benzema in particular has been caught offside a lot this season. He is averaging 1.7 offsides per 90 minutes, which is the second-most in LaLiga after Radamel Falcao’s 1.9. As the centre-forward for the best team in the league, Benzema is always going to have offsides to his name and that’s fine, but 1.7 per game is way up from the 1.1 per game he had in 2021/22 or the 0.7 he had in 2020/21. As strikers get older, it’s natural for them to be caught offside more often as they try to make up for their loss of pace by starting runs a fraction earlier. Is that what’s happening with Benzema? Is it more so to do with his injury? Or is this just an early season coincidence? It’s something to keep an eye on for sure.
3. Can Fede Valverde retain his Player of the Month award?
Fede Valverde was named the LaLiga Santander Player of the Month for September, but his October has been just as good. September was a short month because of the international break and he scored two goals in three games then, but the Uruguayan already has two league goals in October as well, and two impressive ones too, with his crisp finish in El Clásico and an outside-of-the-box swirler here in Elche. With two more league games to go before the end of October, against Sevilla and Girona, Valverde could certainly retain the individual prize he just won last month. He is still playing as well as ever.