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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s win over Real Betis

Euan McTear was there for the first game back at the Bernabéu and here come his talking points from the important win.

Real Madrid v Real Betis Sevilla - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

In the battle of the only two LaLiga teams still with 100 percent records, it was Real Madrid who came out on top, with goals from the Brazilian duo of Vinícius and Rodrygo earning a 2-1 victory. It was the first game at the Bernabéu this season and a very interesting one, so here come three pre-match questions that we got answers to and three post-match ones we can discuss over the coming days.

Three answers

1. Could Real Madrid score a goal this time?

Quite incredibly, Real Madrid hadn’t scored a single goal in their past five home meetings with Real Betis. Los Verdiblancos have been one of Spain’s best teams for a while now and they’ve done especially well in the capital, winning 1-0 in 2017/18, 2-0 in 2018/19 and then earning three 0-0 draws in a row. So, could Real Madrid break this run? Yes, and it only took nine minutes for David Alaba to find Vinícius, who produced the coolest of dinked finishes. Rui Silva had a good game in goals for Real Betis, but Real Madrid were able to beat him again in the second half, this time through Rodrygo.

2. Rodrygo or Fede Valverde? Or both?

Coming into this season, Fede Valverde’s place in the starting XI was less secure than for most. But, he started the UEFA Super Cup and then also the first three matches of the new LaLiga season. The Uruguayan was always going to be rotated and benched at some point, but when? It turned out to be in this game, but was that the right call? We were back to the same Rodrygo or Fede question that came up time and time again at the end of last season. Well, what better solution than having them both? It was when Valverde was substituted on for Camavinga to play in midfield behind Rodrygo that Real Madrid broke the 1-1 deadlock, with the Uruguayan assisting the Brazilian.

3. How would the Bernabéu look?

This was Real Madrid’s first game back at the Bernabéu since May 20th, 106 days ago. That, curiously, was one of those aforementioned goalless draws with Real Betis, on the final weekend of last season. So, how would the Bernabéu look all this time later? Well, first of all the new pitch looked spectacular. Real Madrid have had one of the best grounds staff for several years now, even despite a few recent staffing changes, and the turf again looked perfect. As for the building itself, you can quickly tell that a lot of work has been carried out over the summer. The exterior still looks quite bare in most parts, but they are starting to put the new façade together. Inside, when you look up you see that the main structure of the roof is in place, while, down at pitch level, the seats at the bottom part of the west stand are back in use. The new press entrance is now set up too. Altogether, the new Bernabéu is coming along nicely.

Three questions

1. Is Tchouaméni going to become the Bernabéu’s latest hero?

This was Aurélien Tchouaméni’s first ever time playing at the Bernabéu, but he looked like he’d called this stadium home for years. He was one of the positives of this performance, looking confident and making important contributions in defence and attack. The Bernabéu loved it, especially one silky turn in the first half. This is a stadium and fanbase that has always had extra special connections with its midfielders and maybe Tchouaméni is going to be Bernabéu’s latest hero.

2. Should we expect a lot of freekick attempts, and goals, this season?

There was no freekick scored in this one, following David Alaba and Karim Benzema’s strikes across the first three games, but there were four more freekick attempts. It’s early in the season, so a small sample size, but it might be the case that Real Madrid have decided to fire more of their freekicks at goal. So far in 2022/23, they’ve had an average of 1.50 direct freekick shot per game, compared to the averages of 0.53 freekick shots per game for 2021/22, 0.45 for 2020/21, 0.45 for 2019/20 and 0.50 for 2018/19. In others words, Real Madrid haven’t been shooting too much from freekicks since the last Cristiano Ronaldo season, when they took 0.74 per 90 minutes. Maybe there has been a policy change. Maybe they’re winning more freekicks in dangerous circumstances. Or maybe it’s just an early season coincidence.

3. Are the Benzema concerns legitimate?

He just produced the best season of his career and he is going to be awarded the Ballon d’Or next month, but that hasn’t prevented Karim Benzema from receiving a lot of criticism over the first few weeks of this season. While it’s true that he hasn’t been at his best, most notably in this game with the shocking miss for the (admittedly offside, but he didn’t know that) sliding tap-in that he would normally score in his sleep, the Frenchman is still the leader of an attack that has started the new season with 11 goals from the first four LaLiga games. So, are the Benzema concerns legitimate? Or, considering he’ll surely be back to his very best before long, are they over the top and harsh?

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