Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid played out a strange derby on Sunday night, which finished 1-0 to Atleti courtesy of a Yannick Carrasco penalty. For Diego Simeone’s side, it was a very important win in their pursuit of Champions League football next season, whereas the three points didn’t matter at all for the already-crowned champions. The atmosphere at the Wanda Metropolitano meant it felt important, but the Real Madrid line-up also made it feel like a pre-season friendly. It was odd, but it was interesting and there’s a lot to discuss, with these three pre-match questions we had and three more post-match questions.
1. Just how much would Real Madrid rotate?
We knew there would be rotations from Real Madrid for this game. Even most fans were burnt out after the thrills and spills of Wednesday night, so, even with Antonio Pintus’ magic, how could the players not be fatigued too? Ancelotti did speak in the pre-match about wanting to respect the competition, suggesting he wouldn’t rotate massively as a mark of respect to the teams chasing Atleti for Champions League qualification. But, actually, the Italian did change almost his entire line-up. There were only three starters at the Wanda Metropolitano who would make it into the ‘Gala XI’, namely Éder Militão, Casemiro and Toni Kroos. No matter how meaningless this fixture, it was still a derby, so that was a bit of a shock.
2. Could Jović replace Mariano?
We no longer ask if Luka Jović can replace Karim Benzema. That kind of talk belongs in the deep deep past. But, could he replace Mariano, who had to pull out of the line-up after suffering an injury during the warm-up? It was natural for the Serbian to take Mariano’s spot in such a circumstance, but Ancelotti and co. surely didn’t plan this line-up with Jović in mind. The only thing he and Mariano have in common is that they are backup strikers for Real Madrid. Apart from that, they are two very different types of centre-forward. If the plan had been to play Jović from the start, the pieces around him would surely have been structured a little differently. So, this was one of the many problems with Real Madrid’s starting XI, besides the rotations.
3. Would there be a ‘pasillo’?
By the time this match came around, we already knew the answer to this question. But, this had been a debate all week, ever since Real Madrid clinched the title last Saturday. Would Atlético Madrid give their rivals Real Madrid a ‘pasillo’, a guard of honour? They decided not to do so, with Diego Simeone explaining that it would be taken as a sign of “disrespect” from the Atleti players to their fanbase. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really make a difference whether a guard of honour is given or not. The bigger problem from Real Madrid’s point of view was the ‘pasillo’ that was given to Cunha for the penalty.
1. How many days until the Champions League final?
This was a tough watch for Real Madrid fans. It was a pre-season line-up in an official derby. That’s not fun, but the remaining three LaLiga games probably won’t be too thrilling either. Ancelotti knows he can’t let his starters get rusty ahead of the Champions League final, but we probably will see a lot of the fringe players take up many minutes from now to the end of the domestic campaign. So, it’s a bit of a countdown now for Madridistas until the final, the next and only game that matters before the summer. It’s on May 28th. So, there’s 20 more days of this sleep mode end of the season to go.
2. When will we see Lunin again?
The one rotation that was announced before the game was that of Andriy Lunin coming in for Thibaut Courtois. You can tell that Ancelotti really likes the Ukrainian, but that he obviously can’t drop the most in-form goalkeeper in world football. So, having won the league, this was a good opportunity to give Lunin a shot in a bigger competition than the Copa del Rey. And, he did well. The penalty goal obviously wasn’t his fault, while he kept his team in it with the big save on Cunha in the second half. So, now the question is: when will we see Lunin again? Will he have another opportunity over these final few LaLiga games? Or will he be out until next season’s Copa del Rey. The young shot-stopper had gone 1,086 days between his previous LaLiga appearance and this one. Now 23 years old, he simply can’t wait another three years for his next shot in top-flight match.
3. Could we see Rodrygo at the No.9 spot more often?
When Jović was substituted off on the hour mark, it meant Real Madrid finished the match with a front three of Asensio on the right, Vinícius on the left and Rodrygo in the middle. That was very interesting. Or, at least, it could have been, The problem was that Real Madrid got into the final third so little in that final half hour, except for the stoppage time, that there wasn’t much to observe, even if focusing in on the Brazilian instead of watching the rest of the play. We all saw on Wednesday how intelligent Rodrygo was in and around the six-yard box, in addition to his obvious skill. So, maybe he could be an emergency No.9 on occasion. The good thing is that he has the right mentality and seems to embrace playing wherever he’s positioned.