Real Madrid fought back from an early Mikel Oyarzabal penalty to thrash Real Sociedad 4-1 on Saturday night, sent on their way by two long-range beauties from Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modrić. After two disallowed goals, Karim Benzema was able to get his 20th league goal of the season from the spot and Marco Asensio added a fourth. As attention turns to PSG, we look at three pre-match questions we had before Saturday’s game and three new post-match questions ahead of the Champions League second leg.
1. Would we finally see a first-half goal?
Real Madrid came into this game without having scored a first-half goal in their past eight matches. Not since the Super Cup final against Athletic on January 16th had they netted before the half-time whistle. So, would that change here? Well, it really looked like it was going to be a ninth consecutive match without a goal in the opening 45 minutes, which would have equalled the club’s all-time record in that regard. But, then Eduardo Camavinga popped up with a wonder strike. And then Luka Modrić added one of his own. Like buses, after waiting so long for one, Real Madrid suddenly had two first-half goals in a row.
2. Would we finally see the press Ancelotti has been promising?
It was after the PSG first leg that Ancelotti suggested all of a sudden that he wants his Real Madrid side to become less reliant on the low block and to press higher. But, we hadn’t really seem them try this in the matches since. Against Real Sociedad, though, they did finally press higher and better and won the ball back in the Basque side’s quarter of the pitch multiple times. That was partly because La Real were awful at playing out from the back in this game, but it was also Real Madrid who made them so awful in that area.
3. How would Camavinga do further up the pitch?
When Camavinga has started matches this season, he has often been deployed in the Casemiro role as a solution for replacing the Brazilian. That’s not his best role, at least not yet, and in this game we got to see him unleashed, as he played either side of Casemiro, on the right for a spell and on the left. There were even a few moments when the Frenchman actually interchanged with the Brazilian to return to the holding midfield role, so he literally played all across the midfield, but those moments were brief and he was mostly in an advanced role. And he was excellent, not just because he scored that golazo. Camavinga put good pressure on the Real Sociedad back line and helped provoke some of the recoveries in the opposition half. He was useful in possession too, helping bring Rodrygo into the game early on. This was Camavinga’s night.
1. When will Real Madrid mathematically clinch the title?
With an eight-point lead now over Sevilla, this is surely Real Madrid’s league title. It’s no longer a case of if but when they win this year’s championship. They’ve played 27 matches so far and face Sevilla away on Matchday 32. If the current gap is maintained and if Real Madrid win there, it’d be 11 points and the head-to-head advantage would be for Los Blancos. Real Madrid, then, could win this title with a round or two or three to spare. There’s even a chance, then, that they could seal it on Matchday 35 at the Wanda Metropolitano in the Madrid derby. That would be quite something.
2. What will the starting line-up be vs PSG?
With those important points in the bag, attention now turns to Wednesday night’s second leg against PSG. While Ancelotti has made clear that this clash with Real Sociedad was not any sort of trial run for the Champions League second leg, there are some clues we can pick through from it to try to guess the starting line-up vs PSG. Asensio being left out from the start was interesting, as it might mean he was being rested or it could mean Rodrygo has a chance of starting on Wednesday. Camavinga’s good performance means he’ll surely have a role against the French side too, although it remains to be seen whether he does so as a Casemiro replacement or in the role he played tonight. Given all we know several days out, with Kroos still a doubt, I’d predict Ancelotti’s XI vs PSG to be: Courtois; Carvajal, Militão, Nacho, Alaba; Valverde, Camavinga, Modrić; Asensio, Benzema, Vinícius. What do you all think?
3. Can Real Madrid feed off the crowd vs PSG?
When Camavinga scored his equaliser, the atmosphere in the Bernabéu completely changed. Before that goal, the travelling Real Sociedad fans were actually louder and multiple Real Madrid players even gestured for the home fans to cheer some more. They didn’t at first, but Camavinga’s strike then raised the roof – well, if there was a roof – and there was a buzz in the air that inspired Los Blancos to their excellent finish to the first half, with the first Benzema disallowed goal and then Modrić’s own outside-the-box strike. They kept it up in the second half and, if there’s that kind of atmosphere from the start against PSG on Wednesday, that could be important.