Real Madrid suffered their first defeat of the 2022/23 season away at RB Leipzig, falling 3-2 to the German side as a result of goals from Joško Gvardiol, Christopher Nkunku and Timo Werner. Vinícius and Rodrygo scored a goal each for Los Blancos at the end of each half, but it wasn’t to be for the Spanish side. Having lost for the first time in almost half a year, there are a lot of questions to be answered and here come three pre-match questions that we had and three new ones too.
1. Could Real Madrid seal first place?
Real Madrid had already mathematically secured qualification, but they hadn’t sealed first place yet. So, could they wrap that up here in Leipzig against the second-placed side in the group? Well, no. Albeit with a rotated line-up, Real Madrid were porous and sloppy in this game and lost the match 3-2, deservedly so as it could actually have been a larger margin of victory for the Bundesliga side. The result, combined with Celtic’s 1-1 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk in the group’s other fixture, means that Real Madrid still lead Group F on 10 points and can only be caught by RB Leipzig, who are just one point behind on nine points. Basically, then, Real Madrid will guarantee first spot with a win over Celtic in Matchday 6, while they’d also stay top no matter the result at the Bernabéu if RB Leipzig fail to defeat Shakhtar Donetsk.
2. Why wasn’t Vinícius rested?
Even if first place is still important, being through already meant this was the perfect game to make a lot of rotations. And Real Madrid did so, with the likes of Dani Carvajal, David Alaba and Ferland Mendy left out of the starting XI, in addition to the injured Fede Valverde, Luka Modrić and Karim Benzema. But, why wasn’t Vinícius rested? Ancelotti already announced in his pre-match press conference that the Brazilian would start because “he isn’t tired”, but Vinícius has played more minutes than any other member of the Real Madrid squad this season. Surely he needs – or, put it this way, deserves – a rest too.
3. Would it be Rüdiger or Nacho at left-back?
Once the line-up, with its various rotations, was announced, the only remaining doubt was whether it would be Antonio Rüdiger or Nacho at left-back. Real Madrid started off with Rüdiger on the left and Nacho partnering Éder Militão in the middle. But, that experiment didn’t work at all, especially not with Mohamed Simakan having such a dominant performance down the wing. Both Rüdiger and Nacho were worse off in those roles and it was already too late by the time Ancelotti swapped them back around, doing so halfway through the first half when it was 2-0 to the German side. Ancelotti said just a couple weeks ago that he was going to stop inventing new positions for players. Rüdiger at left-back should, therefore, be shelved and stored behind a break-in-case-of-emergency glass.
1. How will Real Madrid respond to this first defeat in 170 days?
This was Real Madrid’s first competitive defeat in almost half a year. Not since losing 170 days ago, on May 8th in the derby against Atlético Madrid, had they lost. And that’s if you consider that derby loss “competitive”, considering Real Madrid played a heavily rotated line-up that night too, as they’d already clinched the LaLiga title. Their previous defeat when fielding their strongest line-up was the 4-3 at Manchester City on April 26th. Coming back to this Tuesday’s loss, how will Real Madrid respond? Well, considering only five members of this starting XI are usual starters, it probably won’t affect the team when they approach the next match against Girona on Sunday, as it’ll be a much-changed line-up then.
2. Does Asensio deserve more minutes?
Having produced two goals and an assist in just 127 minutes of playing time before tonight’s game, there had been more and more calls for Marco Asensio to be given an opportunity in the starting XI. Well, in Leipzig he started his first game of the season and assisted Vinícius’ first-half header before setting up the Brazilian up for another good chance in the second half. This means Asensio still has the best stats in terms of direct goal contributions per minute, providing one every 54 minutes, but does that really mean he should be starting more?
3. Was Florentino able to watch this Nkunku performance?
Florentino Pérez didn’t make this trip to Leipzig as he remained in Madrid for a lung operation on Tuesday afternoon – which was a success. But, was he able to watch this game from his hospital bed as he recovered? And, if so, what did he think of this Christopher Nkunku performance? The Frenchman was phenomenal as he scored his 12th goal of the season and, even though he is very close to agreeing a deal with Chelsea, that’s not done yet. Could he end up becoming a late target for Real Madrid?