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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s win over Alavés

The talking points as Real Madrid return to winning ways.

Real Madrid CF v Deportivo Alaves - LaLiga Santander Photo by Silvestre Szpylma/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid got back to winning ways on Saturday night, with Marco Asensio scoring another Bernabéu wonder goal to lead Los Blancos on their way to a 3-0 win against Alavés. It wasn’t always pretty. In fact, it was mostly ugly. But, Real Madrid have responded to the PSG debacle with three points, so we now go through three pre-match questions and three post-match questions.

Three answers

1. Where are the goals?

Coming into this one, the fans wanted goals. 4-1. 5-0. 5-1. These were some of the predictions heard around the Bernabéu before the game. So, would Real Madrid turn it on against the team that had conceded the second-most goals in LaLiga Santander this season? Well, Los Blancos approached this match with just one goal from their previous four fixtures and they did little in the first half that suggested this would be a goalfest. They weren’t all that much better in the second half and, once again, had to rely on an Asensio wonder goal from distance to break the deadlock. From there, Alavés had to venture out more and a neat team goal was finished off by Vinícius, before a Karim Benzema penalty made it 3-0. So, this game at least finished with multiple Real Madrid goals.

2. Would Joselu’s prediction be right?

Before the match, in an interview with MARCA, Alavés striker Joselu explained why he felt Real Madrid’s midweek loss to PSG was problematic for the Basque side. “Whenever they’ve just lost, that’s bad news, as they’re going to come for us and try to score seven,” the former Real Madrid academy player said. So, would that prediction be right? Well, Real Madrid got the three points and scored three late goals en route, but the supporters at the Bernabéu were frustrated for large parts of this one and even whistled the players at the half-time break in a way they haven’t yet this season, not even when losing at home to Sheriff Tiraspol. Atmosphere-wise, it feels like Real Madrid need a home performance in which they truly give the impression that they want to score seven.

3. Would Modrić playing on the left make a difference?

With Toni Kroos out of the starting line-up and with Fede Valverde coming in, this also changed Luka Modrić’s position. The Croatian played on the left instead of the right of midfield, to allow Valverde that role to the right of Casemiro. Would that make a difference? Well, actually it seems it did. Modrić was his usual graceful self, but there were a few moments when he seemed to be in the wrong body shape to receive the ball and one moment in the first half when he had to take a first-time shot with his left foot instead of his right. Although right-footed Modrić’s left foot is still better than that of many actual left-footed professional footballers, he didn’t quite have the same zip as usual. With a run playing on the left of midfield, Modrić would surely get comfortable enough to play there at his peak. But, being asked to move out of his comfort zone as a one-off wasn’t ideal for the Croatian.

Three questions

1. Surely Asensio will be back in the Luis Enrique’s Spain squad?

It’s less than a month now until the next Spain squad is to be announced by Luis Enrique and Marco Asensio’s name will surely be included – yes, even if he plays for Real Madrid. He hasn’t been called up for La Roja since the November break of 2020 and Luis Enrique has explained that the main reason was his lack of minutes at club level. Now, Asensio is a regular starter for Real Madrid and he is also playing very well. His latest outside-the-box goal was his ninth total goal for Los Blancos this season. When the next Spain squad is revealed on March 17th or 18th, Asensio must be included.

2. Will Joselu ever win the ‘Cañizares Clásico’?

This game was also the Cañizares Clásico. That’s because Dani Carvajal went up against Joselu, with Daphne Cañizares and Mel Cañizares the partners of the Real Madrid right-back and the Alavés striker respectively. This fixture is always, then, a highlight for that family. Weirdly, though, this was only the second time both Carvajal and Joselu were on the pitch together in a Real Madrid vs Alavés match, mostly as a result of injuries to the Real Madrid man. Their only previous meeting in LaLiga Santander was in 2019/20, when Los Blancos won 2-1 in the Basque Country. Before that, they’d also faced off twice in the Bundesliga in 2012/13 when the defender was at Bayer Leverkusen and the striker was at Hoffenheim, with Carvajal’s Bayer side winning both times. So, will Joselu and Mel ever get to celebrate victory in this family feud? If so, it’ll probably come with Joselu wearing colours other than Alavés’, as he is set to leave in the summer.

3. Has Ancelotti completely abandoned rotation now?

It wasn’t until the 82nd minute, already 2-0 up, that Ancelotti first turned to his bench. Even though there had been many problems in Real Madrid’s performance, some of which could potentially have been fixed by those on the bench, the Italian waited and waited and waited. It’s as if he wants to rotate and adjust his line-up even less than the little he was. Thinking back to the pre-match press conference, when he mentioned how Real Madrid now have a couple of free midweeks coming up – because it’s the other slate of Champions League last 16 first legs and later it’s the Copa semis – it seems Ancelotti is viewing these Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays off as his chance to give his players rest. So, there really might not be much rotation over these next few weeks.