There was no Champions League hangover for Real Madrid, as a clinical second half performance saw them defeat Real Mallorca 3-0 in what was a tough and physical Monday night duel. It was another important three points, so let’s break it down here with three pre-match questions we had, plus three new post-match ones that have come up as a result.
1. Could Benzema break his ‘hat-trick curse’?
Against PSG, Karim Benzema scored his seventh hat-trick since joining Real Madrid. But, curiously, he had failed to score a single goal in each of the six matches that followed those previous times when he took a match ball home. So, would he be able to break that ‘hat-trick curse’ here? Yes, he sure did. After being very unselfish to tee up Vinícius for the opening goal, Benzema was able to score two of his own, one from the spot and one technically perfect header to take his LaLiga Santander tally to 22 goals for the season.
2. Could Casemiro walk that infamous suspension tightrope?
It wouldn’t be the game before a Clásico if Casemiro wasn’t one booking away from suspension, would it? It seems the Brazilian always arrives at the fixture before Barcelona on four yellow cards and he did so again here (well, nine yellows, since he’s already served one suspension) and had to be careful in Mallorca. Given that this was a very physical encounter, it wasn’t easy for the Brazilian to cross that infamous suspension tightrope, but he just about made it to the other side, helped by Ancelotti taking him off in the 61st minute when he was surely one more foul away from going into José María Sánchez Martínez’s book.
3. What would Asensio’s long overdue return to Mallorca be like?
This was a special occasion for Marco Asensio and one he had been waiting for for a long time. Born and raised in Mallorca, he departed the club when he was signed by Real Madrid in 2015, but, incredibly, he had never returned to play at Son Moix Stadium. Real Mallorca had either been outside of the top division or, when they hosted Real Madrid in LaLiga Santander last time, Asensio was out with his ACL injury. Finally, he was able to come on and play in his hometown’s stadium and he was given a special round of applause as he entered off the bench for the injured Rodrygo. There was no hat-trick this time, like there was in the reverse fixture in the capital, but this is surely a moment Asensio will treasure.
1. How are Rodrygo, Mendy and Benzema?
It wasn’t a perfect night for Real Madrid, as they suffered three injuries out there on the Son Moix pitch. Rodrygo, Ferland Mendy and Karim Benzema all experienced physical issues and tests are expected on each of them on Wednesday. Although Rodrygo was the one who struggled off the pitch the most, Carlo Ancelotti’s answer in his post-match press conference suggested that the Brazilian’s issue isn’t as concerning as it was simply a heavy knock. With Mendy and Benzema, there is more fear of muscle injuries. There are, at least, six days until Real Madrid play again, but that fixture is El Clásico and the clock is now ticking.
2. Will fans ever be happy with Ancelotti’s rotation?
There actually was some rotation from Ancelotti in this game, yet the Italian was still criticised in the media and on social media ahead of this game. Although Player X was rested, some journalists and fans couldn’t believe that Player Y was still starting or that Player Z hadn’t been given the opportunity. Even though Real Madrid have only one fixture in the next 18 days, there were calls for even more rotation. It seems the coach will never keep everybody happy with his management of the squad.
3. When will the referees protect the dribblers?
There could have been a serious injury in this game, as the refereeing allowed the physicality to get out of hand. Trying to let the game flow is fine, but the Spanish federation’s referees too often call the play dead for a nothing 50-50 shoulder charge yet then let a potential leg-breaker go unpunished. Vinícius had to deal with the unpunished abuse in this game, but it’s happened in other fixtures over the past few days, with João Félix and Nabil Fekir suffering too. In the case of Fekir, he eventually lost his temper and lashed out, meaning he was the one shown a red card. It appeared for a moment that Vinícius might suffer a similar fate, but he kept his cool just enough. Going forward, it shouldn’t be allowed to reach that stage where the superstar dribblers try to take matters into their own hands. They need to be protected.