Real Madrid are into the Copa del Rey semi-finals and they achieved this by defeating city rivals Atlético Madrid. They needed extra time to secure this 3-1 win, one rounded off by Vinícius after a day in which he’d been in the headlines for some very undesirable reasons. There is a lot to break down from this derby, so here come three questions that were answered and three new questions we have moving forward.
1. Was it the right call to bring back Modrić and Kroos in place of Valverde and Ceballos?
The main team news we were looking out for before this game was for who would start in midfield. After Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos were benched for the visit to Bilbao on Sunday, with that decision working out, there was a slight chance that Dani Ceballos might keep his place in the starting XI and that Fede Valverde might be kept in midfield. But, that didn’t happen, and it was the veteran Croatian and German either side of Eduardo Camavinga to start out. Was that the right call? Well, the first half performance was really poor from Real Madrid and it was lethargic, in a way that you doubt it would have been had there been a more youthful midfield. But, they were also key to the comeback, with the Croatian even doing what he does best, which is play extra times. Luka Modrić is Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos is Toni Kroos, so it’s only right for Ancelotti to keep giving them starts. With so many games coming up, there will certainly be enough minutes for everyone.
2. What would the Vinícius ovation be like in the 20th minute?
Following the horrible effigy depicting Vinícius, that was hung off a Madrid motorway bridge last night, Real Madrid fans came together during Thursday afternoon to spread the word on social media that there would be an ovation for the Brazilian in minute 20, that of his shirt number. So, what would that be like? Well, the problem was that Atlético took the lead in the 19th minute. That stunned and silenced the Bernabéu and then, one minute later, when the south stand singing section tried to get a chant of “Vinícius” going, there was almost zero response. That was disappointing, to be honest. When Vini scored right at the end, then there were chants of his name from the whole stadium. But, this 20th minute gesture was supposed to show support to Vinícius the human being, who had been subjected to something awful, rather than just supporting him when the scoreline was going Real Madrid’s way and when he was Vinícius the goalscorer.
3. Who’d be right about Soto Grado? Ancelotti or the club?
There was a strange sub-plot in the build-up to this match, once the referee was announced as César Soto Grado. From inside Real Madrid, a media campaign was launched to try to discredit this referee and to point out that he was the official involved in the recent David Alaba handball penalty at Villarreal. Several media outlets close to the club, including but not limited to RMTV, heavily criticised this appointment and then Ancelotti was asked pre-match if he felt comfortable having a referee who had supposedly jeopardised Real Madrid multiple times. But, the coach completely shut that down. “Yes, but if we look back through all his matches then we’ll see examples like when he was also the referee in the Spanish Super Cup final we won last year,” Ancelotti responded. “He’s young and has personality and I like him.” So, there was a conflict. Real Madrid as a club didn’t like the appointment of Soto Grado for this derby, but Ancelotti did. In the end, the referee had an excellent game, letting if flow and avoiding being duped by dives from either side. So, it seems Ancelotti was right about the official in this case.
1. Is this the year that Real Madrid finally win another Copa del Rey?
The Copa del Rey and Real Madrid have famously had a difficult relationship over the years. Never mind the fact that Sergio Ramos once dropped the trophy under a bus, Los Blancos have just always viewed this competition as the least important of the season. But, the drought since the last cup triumph has now lasted a little too long, as they haven’t won this competition since they did so under Ancelotti back in 2013/14. In the eight seasons since then, Real Madrid haven’t won the Copa del Rey and haven’t even really come close, only reaching the semi-finals once, when they fell to Barcelona in the 2018/19 final four. Now, they’re back at the semi-final stage once again and hoping to go all the way. Is this the year they finally win the Copa again?
2. Is Camavinga at left-back a viable option?
When France started playing Eduardo Camavinga at left-back at the World Cup, most of us scoffed. But, he did well on the left of defence and even played there in the World Cup final, making a huge impact in that game. In this derby, the youngster had another run-out at left-back, this time after Ferland Mendy had to go off injured and there was no alternative. And, Camavinga was excellent. Defensively, he looked comfortable. In attack, he contributed just about as much as he had been doing from midfield. He really is a versatile player and he really can play left-back, but it should only be when needed to as an emergency. It obviously shouldn’t become the norm.
3. Will there be tired legs for Sunday’s game?
When you win a cup derby to knock out your city rivals, who really cares about the next game? But, Real Madrid are also involved in a very tight LaLiga title race and high-flying Real Sociedad visit the Bernabéu on Sunday. The Basque side have the benefit of having played their cup quarter-final a day earlier than Real Madrid and of their tie not going to extra time. Will that make a difference on Sunday? Nobody really cares about that just now, but there really could be a fatigue factor to this upcoming league game.