It’s six points from six for Real Madrid, who have started their LaLiga title defence with wins at Almería and now Celta Vigo. On Saturday night, they won 4-1, putting on an impressive show in the first match of the post-Casemiro era. We had many questions going into the game and now many more after it, so here comes a look at what we learned and what we’re wondering about next.
1. How would Tchouaméni do in game one of the post-Casemiro era?
“All eyes are on Aurélien Tchouaméni,” the commentary said probably about a dozen times during the broadcast. But, it was true. With Casemiro now wearing red, and with Toni Kroos absent for this game at least, Tchouaméni was the man chosen to start in the No.6 position. He’d also started there against Almería and had a disappointing performance, but here he showed his true level. He did find himself out of position on a couple of occasions in the opening half hour, but the 22-year-old grew into the game and was very involved, producing a few moments that made you go “wow”. Given all the pressure that was on his shoulders going into this game in Vigo, this was a very impressive response.
2. Could Camavinga and Tchouaméni link up like they do in training?
Part of the reason Tchouaméni was under pressure was that Ancelotti had explicitly said he was disappointed with the performances of the summer signing and of Camavinga against Almería. He explained that they were capable of much more, and that they’d performed better in training that under the lights of the Power Horse Stadium. So, could the two Frenchman translate their good play from the training pitches to a real life situation this week? Well, yes. They could. As mentioned above, Tchouaméni grew into the game and had a busy and effective performance overall, while Camavinga was also much better this week than last. They also combined better with each other and, of course, with the “immortal” Luka Modrić.
3. Another penalty fest in Vigo?
When these sides met in Vigo in April, it was a festival of penalties as Real Madrid were awarded three spot kicks, with Karim Benzema scoring two and missing one. Given how this new LaLiga season had started, you wondered if we’d see more spot kicks here. And we did. There were three more penalties in this Celta Vigo vs Real Madrid, one for the hosts and two for the visitors. After Benzema and Aspas converted one each for clear handballs, Eden Hazard then wasted a chance to score from the spot after a foul on Benzema. With these three penalties in Vigo, LaLiga is currently running at an average of 0.67 penalties awarded per game for 2022/23.
1. How many more standing ovations will Modrić receive?
Luka Modrić has reached a unique level of footballing respect. In this game, he was given a standing ovation by the Celta Vigo fans as he was substituted off the pitch after having scored what is already certain to be one of the best goals of the season. From Eibar’s Ipurua to Inter’s San Siro, the midfielder has now received standing ovations from a range of different fanbases after various spectacular performances. How many more will he receive before he hangs up his boots?
2. How much confidence will Hazard’s penalty miss cost him?
When Real Madrid won their second penalty of the game, Benzema handed the ball to Eden Hazard. More than a kind gesture, it was Benzema’s way of trying to get the Belgian’s confidence up because the Frenchman knows that a confident and engaged Hazard can be very useful to the team. But… he missed. Rather than improve Hazard’s confidence, this will only have dented it. By how much, we don’t yet know. But, you have to hope Hazard doesn’t lament that miss for too long, because his overall performances have been good so far this season. He just needs to refocus and keep up these important contributions off the bench.
3. Does Ancelotti now have the energy for a pressing game? Or was that just an excuse?
There was a point early last season when Ancelotti gave up on playing a pressing game, pointing to the fact that Modrić, Kroos and Casemiro didn’t have the energy for that kind of style. As he explained at the time: “We’re comfortable with a low block. We have midfielders who maybe can’t defend as well when the game is open. We’re not an intense team, especially defensively.” Now, though, Casemiro is gone and even Kroos and Modrić will play less. So, with the likes of Tchouaméni, Camavinga and Valverde all set to earn significant minutes, shouldn’t Real Madrid have the energy to play a pressing game now? Well, even in Vigo, when all three of those players started, the press was poor. Maybe it’s not about the profile of players but about the set-up of Ancelotti’s press.