Even if Real Madrid vs RB Leipzig won’t go down as a classic, there were still several interesting aspects of this 2-0 win. So, there is still a lot to discuss in this three answers and three questions piece, looking at what we were wondering going in and what we’re taking away following the full-time whistle.
1. Are Champions League group games actually the perfect laboratory for experimenting?
There were rotations in this game, some forced and others not, meaning at least four of the starting XI were players who wouldn’t ordinarily get into the ‘Gala XI’. It makes absolute sense for Real Madrid to rotate in these Champions League group stage matches, especially when in a relatively easy group like this one. Qualification isn’t really at risk, while any dropped points don’t have an impact on your chances of winning the tournament once you reach the knockout rounds. Rotate in the cups and you risk elimination. Rotate in the league and the dropped points count on the year-long standings. But, rotation in these Champions League group stage matches comes much more low-risk. It really is the perfect laboratory for experimenting.
2. Would the rookie referee be good enough?
When the refereeing assignments for this round came out, it was quite a surprise to see the name Maurizio Mariani next to this fixture. He had never before refereed a Champions League match, while the 40-year-old had only taken charge of five Europa League matches in his career and none in the knockout rounds. So, would he be able to handle the big stage that is the Bernabéu and the Champions League? Well no, not at all. Mariani was really poor as a main official for this game. Without benefitting either side, he got several decisions wrong and quickly lost control of the game, leading to several lingering tussles between certain players. He clearly didn’t have the authority or respect of the players. Thankfully, this bad refereeing didn’t alter the outcome of the match.
3. How would Rodrygo do as the No.9?
With Karim Benzema still out, Ancelotti had to find a solution to that problem once again. He dropped Eden Hazard and instead went for Rodrygo as the No.9, something you can tell he has been wanting to do for a while, as the Italian has often spoken of how Rodrygo has the most versatile qualities of his forwards. But, it just didn’t really work in this situation. He was isolated, partly because of the more conservative strategy adopted to deal with the threats of RB Leipzig, and then all three of his shots were off target when he did get the ball.
1. How many goals will Fede Valverde score this season?
Ancelotti press conferences are fun because he often comes out with brilliant lines, and that was the case tonight. “If you can’t get a player like Fede Valverde to score at least 10 goals in a season then you should rip up your coaching badge and retire,” the Italian said in his post-match press conference. Last year the Uruguayan only scored once and Ancelotti feels that was a black mark on the coaching staff, since the 24-year-old is more than capable. This year Fede Valverde already has three goals to his name. How many can he get by the end of the season?
2. What happened to the Bernabéu pitch?
Mario Suárez was right. We should talk about the Bernabéu pitch. The Rayo Vallecano player tweeted a tongue-in-cheek comment during the game, asking why nobody was complaining about the poor quality of the Bernabéu turf, when Rayo get criticised for the state of Vallecas after almost every game. And Suárez was right, the pitch did not look good, with the ball skipping along in a way that has rarely been seen at Real Madrid’s home ground in recent years. In this same column, the pitch was praised just a couple of weeks ago, but it’s true that it wasn’t in good condition today. 24 hours of wild weather in Madrid surely had something to do with it. Let’s see if it can be mended in time for the next home game on October 2nd.
Del césped del Bernabéu no nos quejamos??? Solo pregunto eh… ♂️— Mario Suárez (@MarioSuarez4) September 14, 2022
3. Can we move on from Asensio-gate?
Marco Asensio had been in the headlines almost permanently over the past few weeks, first being linked with a move away from the club that never materialised and then being caught throwing a bib and kicking a water bottle when he wasn’t able to be substituted on against Real Mallorca on Sunday. Even though he has long been one of the fan favourites at the Bernabéu, he was whistled because of this when he came on in the 64th minute here. But, Asensio was able to respond with a lovely goal, one which looks better and better with each replay. Asensio raised his hand to the Bernabéu, seemingly asking for forgiveness, and he received it, earning an ovation that was about much more than just that strike. Surely now we can move on from Asensio-gate.