Real Madrid got back to winning ways in style on Thursday night, thrashing Levante 6-0 thanks to a Vinícius hat-trick, a Ferland Mendy strike, another from Rodrygo and a historic goal from Karim Benzema. It was a game that relegated Levante and that saw Real Madrid keep up their match sharpness. So, here we take a look at three questions that were answered and three new post-match questions from this huge win.
1. Could Benzema match Raúl?
We knew there would be more rotations in this game, as Ancelotti’s pre-Liverpool plan seems to be to rotate a different half of the starting XI each match. So, that meant Karim Benzema probably would play in this game after being rested on Sunday and, sure enough, the Frenchman did start. After collecting his April Player of the Month award pre-match, he had the chance to make history by matching Raúl’s tally of 323 goals for Real Madrid. By turning in the second of the night, Benzema did indeed match the Spaniard to become the joint-second-top goalscorer in Real Madrid history, only now behind the 450 goals of Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s so impressive, even more so when you consider Benzema needed only 603 games and 43,407 minutes to match Raúl’s record, when the Spaniard scored his 323 goals over 741 appearances and 59,920 minutes.
2. Would Levante be relegated tonight?
Maybe Real Madrid fans didn’t care about this question too much, but one of the big pre-match talking points from a league-wide point of view was the fact that Levante would be relegated if they lost, since they started the match six point behind 17th-placed Cádiz, who held the head-to-head record. So, could Levante take their quest for a great escape to the penultimate round? Well, no, they couldn’t even take it to half-time. They were absolutely terrible, even making a double substitution in the first half for purely tactical reasons. So, Levante are the first relegated team of this LaLiga Santander season and that’s always a shame to see a club relegated. Anybody who mocks a relegated club has clearly never supported a team that’s suffered relegation themselves. Let’s hope Levante can bounce back up, because it is one of Spanish football’s great clubs, one that conducts its business the right way.
3. Would Vinícius hit his 15 goals?
For several months now, one of the leading Spanish football radio shows has been keeping a closer eye on Vinícius’ LaLiga Santander goals tally than most. That’s because Manolo Lama – one of the most famous Spanish commentators, who voices the FIFA games if you put it in Spanish language mode – made a bet that Vini wouldn’t read 15 league goals in 2021/22. Although it had looked like he’d smash that number, the Brazilian’s scoring pace slowed… until tonight. With his hat-trick, Vinícius now has his 15th, 16th and 17th goals of the league campaign and the rest of the Cadena Cope newsroom celebrated that achievement in a big way.
1. Will we see any Castilla players over these final two games?
Peter González and Mario Gila came on towards the end of this thrashing, making them the first Castilla players to be given minutes since Real Madrid wrapped up the title. The suggestion that Ancelotti should field line-ups between now and the Champions League final that are made up mostly of Castilla players is, of course, is ludicrous, never mind illegal. As Article 10 of the rulebook explains: “At the start of a match, each team must have at least seven players from the squad of the division in which the team plays and keep at least seven players from that squad for the duration of the match.” So, Real Madrid could only have a maximum of four Castilla players at one time and, even then, that would risk an illegal line-up in the case of a red card for one of the seven. So, we’re not going to see many Castilla players in Matchday 37 or 38, but maybe one or two more could be give minutes.
2. What to do with Vallejo this summer?
Jesús Vallejo has now played 289 minutes for Real Madrid this season, with all but 14 of those minutes having come in the past two weeks. Despite his lack of action, he has slotted in well into Real Madrid’s central defence. He has done what is to be expected of a fourth-choice centre-back and more. So, what now for the 25-year-old? Given that he has a contract at the Bernabéu until 2025, there is no rush to move Vallejo on and try to fetch what would be a tiny transfer fee for him. So, there is a good chance he could stay on for another season. Even with Antonio Rüdiger arriving, David Alaba will surely play fewer minutes at centre-back and more at left-back, so keeping Vallejo around for squad depth would make sense. If he’s cheap and has an excellent work ethic, which are both true, then why not keep him for the 2022/23 squad?
3. When will we next see two Italians face each other in LaLiga Santander?
One of the unimportant-but-still-curious aspects to this game was the fact that this was the only duel between two Italians in LaLiga Santander this season. Given that there are zero Italian players in LaLiga Santander in 2021/22 and given that Carlo Ancelotti and Alessio Lisci are the only two Italian head coaches, with the Levante boss having taken over after these two clubs’ first meeting of the season, this Matchday 36 fixture was the first time all season that two Italians have faced off in Spain’s top flight. When will we see the next such battle? Who knows, but it really is peculiar that LaLiga Santander has players from 62 different nationalities but Italy, from just the other side of the Mediterranean, isn’t one of them.