Real Madrid successfully navigated a potentially tricky fixture against a stubborn Getafe side, overcoming their capital city neighbours 2-0 at the Bernabéu. We had many questions coming into this one and three of those pre-match queries are answered below, while we also now have three more questions ahead of the Chelsea and Sevilla games coming up over the next week.
1. Who would be given a rest ahead of Chelsea?
Although Carlo Ancelotti had hardly rotated all season, what this meant was that Real Madrid were able to build up a significant lead at the top of the table. Having created that cushion, Real Madrid were actually able to rotate for this game, sandwiched in between the two legs of the Chelsea tie. So, who exactly would be given a rest? Well, Ancelotti sat both Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić for this one, as well as Dani Carvajal and the not-100-percent Ferland Mendy. He essentially rested Nacho too, since it’ll be the Spaniard who takes the suspended Éder Militão’s place in that second leg on Tuesday. Despite changing up the team so much, Real Madrid still collected the three points and now they have some extra energy for the crucial game in midweek.
2. Would Marcelo get that special moment with his son?
We knew that the Infantil youth team were going to be given a reception in front of the Bernabéu crowd ahead of kick-off, having won the most recent LaLiga Promises tournament. With Enzo Alves Vieira, Marcelo’s son, forming part of that team, the left-back was surely hoping he’d get the start tonight so that he could be out there on the pitch alongside his son. And he did. That produced a really touching moment as the father and son embraced on the Bernabéu pitch, as club captain and LaLiga Promises champion.
3. Would this finally be the day of Bale’s Bernabéu return?
The last time Gareth Bale played on the hallowed turf of the Bernabéu, it was February 26th 2020, so long ago that it was before the coronavirus pandemic. The Welshman featured in Real Madrid’s 2-1 Champions League last 16 first leg loss to Manchester City and that proved to be his last outing at his home stadium… until today. More than two years later and with his eight Real Madrid appearances since then all coming away from the Bernabéu, he was introduced by Ancelotti in the 74th minute. Of course he was whistled, as that was inevitable, but there was applause too. Perhaps on the broadcast it sounded like there were more whistles, but keep in mind that one whistle is far louder than one clap. The majority were backing Bale here, with the club, through the local media, having spent the last few days floating the idea of him enjoying an amicable farewell, trying to get the fans on board with an idea that would have been even more unpalatable just last month. It seems he’ll get another outing or two before this season is done.
1. Did Vinícius learn that from Modrić?
Vinícius is starting to rediscover his best form at the right time of the season. After a bit of a winter lull, he dazzled under the spring sunset in this game, nutmegging Djené, one of LaLiga Santander’s best centre-backs, just to warm up, before curling in an exquisite cross with the outside of his right boot for Casemiro to head in the opener. Fans at the Bernabéu are used to such outside-of-the-boot delights, but usually from the feet of Luka Modrić. Perhaps Vinícius has been working with the Croatian to add that particular weapon to his arsenal.
2. Should someone other than Casemiro partner Valverde and Camavinga?
With Kroos and Modrić rested, it was Eduardo Camavinga and Fede Valverde who took their place. They had already played together a lot already this season, but usually after being introduced to close out matches. Rarely had they started together, though, and even more rarely had they started together alongside Casemiro. This was just the third time this season that Ancelotti went with a midfield trio of Valverde, Camavinga and Casemiro, with the other occasions being the 2-1 Champions League loss to Sheriff Tiraspol and the 3-1 Copa del Rey win at Alcoyano. So, this was still very much an experiment and it still requires a lot of work. Playing Valverde and Camavinga together is an interesting prospect, given their dribbling and energy, but it just doesn’t fully work when it’s Casemiro who joins them in the midfield. None of those three players had the ability or desire to try to break the Getafe back five with forward passing. Most passes went to the flanks or sideways. So, maybe when Valverde and Camavinga start together they need to do so with one of Kroos and Modrić, or at least with a player like Dani Ceballos.
3. How will Ancelotti replace Casemiro at Sevilla?
It was a bittersweet night for Casemiro. He scored his first goal of the season by heading in Vinícius’ sumptuous cross, but he later picked up a yellow card for dissent and will now be suspended for Real Madrid’s trip to Sevilla next Sunday night. That’s a big loss and especially for this particular fixture. So, Ancelotti will need to work out how to replace the Brazilian. Does he opt for Kroos sitting in that deeper role? Does he try Camavinga there again? Could he opt for a Valverde and Camavinga double pivot? There are many options, but that’s a problem to work out later in the week. First, the focus must be on Tuesday and on Chelsea.