Real Madrid have won the latest derby, taking away a 2-1 victory from the Metropolitano. This night, though, will be remembered for a lot more than just the football and the racist chanting against Vinícius features in this derby edition of three answers and three questions.
1. Would Vinícius get to dance?
There was one clear pre-match talking point. It was the talking point of the whole weekend, in fact. Would Vinícius get to dance? After being criticised for his dancing celebrations, and in some instances racially so, several football legends spoke out to defend Vinícius and encourage him to keep dancing. Neymar even went as far as to state that he was hoping his international teammate would score in the derby. So, what would happen on Sunday night at the Metropolitano? Well, before the match there were racist chants against Vinícius from some, explicitly calling him a “monkey”, and that continued inside the stadium too. That suddenly became the most important story of the night. In terms of whether or not Vini would score, he didn’t in the end, but he still got to dance with Rodrygo and Fede Valverde as Real Madrid celebrated an important derby win.
2. Would this be a game for Rüdiger to start?
With Madridistas expecting trouble for Vinícius, many were calling before the game for Antonio Rüdiger to be given a start here, almost to play an enforcer role like in ice hockey. But, Ancelotti didn’t see the need and went with Éder Militão and David Alaba, who were both excellent. Rüdiger did get to come on in the 75th minute, replacing Ferland Mendy as Real Madrid’s first substitution. Even though the Atleti goal came with Rüdiger on the pitch, he still did well to help the team see the game out.
3. Could Real Madrid exploit Atlético’s makeshift back line?
This was set up to be the perfect game for Real Madrid. They knew Atlético were going to attack them and leave spaces in behind, and that the injuries to José María Giménez and Stefan Savić would leave Diego Simeone’s three centre-backs exposed. The Atleti back three – and it was a back three, not a back five – was made up of Reinildo, Felipe and Axel Witsel. The latter two are both 33 and Witsel isn’t even a centre-back. With the energy and skill of Fede Valverde, Rodrygo and Vinícius, it was a complete mismatch, with Felipe particularly poor on both goals. All three of Real Madrid’s forwards look impressive in the highlights. Each of the Atleti centre-backs should fear being benched once Giménez and Savić return.
1. Will the racists at the Metropolitano face consequences?
As we now look to the post-match questions, the main question has to circle back to the racism mentioned above. Will anything be done, many will ask. Sadly, there probably won’t be much done. If sporting sanctions were to be made because of this, then it had to be during the game, but the referee didn’t stop play. The good news, though, is that there is still the possibility of specific individuals being criminally charged if they are proven to have directed racist abuse to any of the players. LaLiga have actually criminally reported racist abuse against Vinícius to the Spanish police in the past, after an insult during a Clásico at the Camp Nou in October 2021. There were 99 such reports made to the Spanish police by LaLiga in the past year, with the Spanish league providing the criminal justice system with evidence that could lead to a prosecution. We’ll have to see in the coming days if any specific individuals can be singled out for similar criminal proceedings this time.
2. When will Vinícius score against Atlético Madrid?
Even if he was able to dance with his teammates, sending a powerful message to the critics and racists, Vinícius wasn’t on the scoresheet himself and hasn’t actually ever scored in a Madrid derby in nine appearances. He has provided three assists in these matches, in addition to the shot off the post that set up Fede Valverde this Sunday night. Maybe it’ll be 10th time lucky for Vinícius as he seeks a derby goal when this fixture returns to the Bernabéu later in the season.
3. Who sits out for Benzema?
Real Madrid really haven’t missed Karim Benzema much, if at all. Since the Frenchman went down in the first half away at Celtic, Real Madrid have scored 11 goals and conceded two in the 330 minutes of football played since then. Obviously Benzema will go straight back into the team when he returns from injury after the international break, but who drops out for him? As mentioned above, all three of Fede Valverde, Rodrygo and Vinícius have been impressive. Perhaps Fede Valverde drops back into midfield to mean they can all keep their place in addition to Benzema. It would be hard to drop any of these talented forwards right now.