Cádiz vs Real Madrid really didn’t matter for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, but it was a huge game for the relegation-threatened Andalusians. With Cádiz giving their all and with Real Madrid fielding an experimental XI, it made for fascinating viewing. Here comes a discussion of that 1-1 draw, from the pre-match queries we had to the new questions these 90 minutes threw up.
1. Would Vallejo make the most of a fourth consecutive league start?
Jesús Vallejo was back in the starting line-up, making this his fourth league start in a row. Only once before in his entire career had he started four consecutive LaLiga Santander games and, even then, he was substituted off at half time in one of them. So, how would Vallejo look after such a stable and consistent run in the side? Well, we never really got to find out, since he was weirdly deployed at right-back for this game and Lucas Vázquez at left-back. And, Vallejo really didn’t look comfortable. It’s a shame for him, because he was starting to look settled and confident in central defence. It’s hard to know why Ancelotti decided to shake that up and we never got any answers on that from the coach in what was his shortest press conference of the season.
2. Would Hazard make his return?
When Eden Hazard required surgery at the end of March to remove the osteosynthesis plate in his right ankle, it appeared his season was over. However, this is one occasion where the Belgian has recovered quicker than expected and he made the squad list for this game. In the 64th minute he was substituted on and he did well in what was a very physical encounter, riding tackles and holding the ball up excellently. He perhaps embraced the physicality a little too much, risking a red card for a tackle on Carlos Akapo, but at least the former Chelsea man had no fear in this game, something we’ve not been able to say after previous returns from injury.
3. Would Mateu Lahoz do Mateu Lahoz stuff?
Whenever Real Madrid have Antonio Mateu Lahoz refereeing one of their games, one of the pre-match concerns has to be about him. It’s not that he’s biased, as evidenced by the fact that fans of all clubs equally fear having him in the middle. It’s just that he can turn the most average football match into a circus. He started off by joining Cádiz’s guard of honour for the champions, which is unusual for referees but also something he did last week when Barça gave Real Betis a ‘pasillo’ for their Copa del Rey win. Then, in the game, Mateu Lahoz quickly lost control, allowing this to become the increasingly dangerous physical battle mentioned above. Then, at the end, confusion reigned as he seemingly awarded Cádiz a freekick for a Carvajal challenge on Fali that was actually inside the area, but he then blew for full time while the VAR check was taking place. As Cádiz coach Sergio González stated afterwards: “When he blows for full time he does it in his unique way and you don’t know if the game is over or not.” So, yes, Mateu Lahoz did Mateu Lahoz stuff.
1. Nacho over Militão for the Champions League final?
Not for the first time in the past few weeks, Éder Militão had a poor performance. He was out of position, he was imprecise, he kept slipping and, strangest of all, he was soft in his challenges. Nacho, meanwhile, was the opposite. So, assuming David Alaba is back to take his spot in central defence, is there a selection decision to be made with the other centre-back position for the Champions League final? That very question was put to Ancelotti after the game, to which he replied: “Yes, when you have a player like Nacho, that always creates doubts when picking the line-up. You have doubts over the line-up for every match at Real Madrid, since there’s a full squad and not just 11 players.” It would be a shock if Ancelotti did bench Militão against Liverpool, but we know he does love Nacho.
2. Is Lunin too good to back up Courtois?
Andriy Lunin got his second start of the week and he was very good. It wasn’t just that he saved Álvaro Negredo’s penalty, the concession of which was the only blot on his copybook, but the Ukrainian made many other saves and looked solid overall. It’s reassuring for Real Madrid to know that they do have a goalkeeper they can count on should they need him to come in for Thibaut Courtois at any point, but is Lunin maybe too good to just be a backup? He is now 23 years of age and, having made fewer than 100 appearances in his entire senior career, he can’t afford to keep waiting for opportunities that might not come. That’s why there’s a chance he’ll leave this summer.
3. Will Real Madrid vs Real Betis be moved?
Real Madrid vs Real Betis in Matchday 38 is due to be played next Sunday at 18:30 local time, however this fixture could now be moved. Real Madrid, as we all know, have had nothing to play for for several weeks already, while Real Betis now don’t have anything to play for either. They’re fifth and can no longer finish fourth and, although they could come sixth, that doesn’t change anything fundamentally as they’ll qualify for the Europa League group stage either way. Therefore, LaLiga may decide to move this game to a different time slot next weekend, like they did with the Matchday 37 dead rubber between Espanyol and Valencia.