A typical Marco Asensio wonder goal earned Real Madrid a 1-0 win over Granada on Sunday night, a victory that makes it 14 wins in a row against this opponent. That and more is discussed below as we take a look at three pre-match questions that were answered and three new questions this match produced.
1. Could Real Madrid overcome their four key absences?
Real Madrid had six players out of this game and four of them were very key, as they were without Ferland Mendy, Casemiro, Karim Benzmea and Vinícius. Apart from Thibaut Courtois, these might be the four players that Real Madrid can least afford to lose, partly because of their talent and partly because of their lack of solid replacements. So, how would Los Blancos cope without this quartet? Well, they had Marcelo in for Mendy, Camavinga for Casemiro and then Rodrygo and Isco on the left and centre of attack. It just about worked about, although it wasn’t always pretty.
2. Would Latasa get on the pitch at all?
There was one name that stood out when the Real Madrid squad list was announced ahead of this match, as Castilla player Juanmi Latasa was included. He was the only B team outfielder on this weekend’s squad list, with the striker included given the absences of Karim Benzema and Mariano. So, would he get on the pitch at all? While it might seem wild for a player to go from the B team straight into the first-team action, we have seen this before and Ancelotti obviously called him up for a reason. In the end, Latasa wasn’t introduced, but he was sent to warm-up in the second half, suggesting the coach was considering using the 20-year-old if the need arose.
3. Would Marcelo embrace the chance to lead the team out as captain?
Marcelo has been the Real Madrid captain since the summer and he had worn the captain’s armband on various occasions before then. But, this match was the first home game in which the Brazilian was starting since he had become the full-time captain following Sergio Ramos’ departure. This, then, was the first ever time that Marcelo was leading Real Madrid out at the Bernabéu as the full-time captain, rather than filling in for someone else. It might not sound like a big deal, but this was surely a special moment for Marcelo and he went out there and had a good game in front of his home crowd.
1. Why is Isco preferred to Jović?
In the absence of Karim Benzema, it was Isco who led the line and not for the first time. So, what does that say about Luka Jović? Well, Ancelotti tried to play down this controversy by claiming after the match that the Serbian striker still isn’t fully fit after contracting the coronavirus last month. “Jović still isn’t optimal after having had COVID-19,” the coach said. That might true, but there are surely other reasons too for Ancelotti preferring the midfielder to the centre-forward.
2. Was it the positional change or the introduction of Valverde that made the bigger difference?
The easy takeaway to make from the half-time substitution of Camavinga-for-Valverde is that the Uruguayan’s introduction changed the game. But, it’s not quite as simple as that. At the same time as Valverde came on for Camavinga, Toni Kroos moved into the centre to take over the Casemiro role that the Frenchman had been occupying. So, what made the bigger difference? Was it that Valverde was so much more impactful? Or, was it that Kroos moving centrally provided more balance to the team overall? It might have been a mix of both, but perhaps Camavinga could have been just as effective as Valverde had he been allowed to play in his optimal role as an interior midfielder.
3. Is there any team Real Madrid defeat as often as Granada?
This victory was Real Madrid’s 14th in a row against Granada, a run that dates back to 2013 and with all of these wins coming in LaLiga. Whether at home or away, Los Blancos just know how to defeat the Andalusian side and they did so once again here. In all of Real Madrid’s history, there is only one club who they have a better run of consecutive league wins against, having achieved 17 wins in a row against Rayo Vallecano over an 18-year span between 2000 and 2018. With a few more victories over Granada, they could soon catch that record.