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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s win at Braga

The talking points as Real Madrid take a huge step towards the knockouts.

Sporting Braga v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Photo by David S.Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Real Madrid have one and a half feet in the Champions League knockouts, after winning 2-1 at Braga to make it three wins from three to start this year’s European campaign. Rodrygo and Bellingham got the goals, with Vinícius setting up both, so there’s plenty to discuss.

Three questions

1. How many rotations would we see?

With Real Madrid already in a commanding position in their group and with El Clásico coming up, this was the perfect game to rotate and to rest starters. So, how many Clásico starters would Ancelotti sit? Well, not too many actually. Of the players who are pretty much guaranteed to start on Saturday against Barcelona, only Tchouaméni and Alaba were left out of tonight’s starting line-up. Perhaps Mendy and Kroos will start in Barcelona too, and maybe that’s why they were left out, but couldn’t the likes of Carvajal, Valverde, Vinícius and Bellingham have been given a rare rest too? The difference in importance between this group game and Saturday’s Clásico really can’t be overstated.

2. Surely this was the perfect game for Brahim?

Sticking with the subject of rotations, one of the players who could easily have come in to start this game was Brahim. Yet, amazingly, he wasn’t even brought on off the bench. Considering the Spaniard has done well when given a chance, considering this wasn’t the most important game in the world and considering the Clásico is coming up, you’d have thought Brahim could have been given a run-out, more than anything to provide rest for one of the regular starters. But, no, Brahim had to watch this one entirely from the bench and couldn’t add to his tally of 118 minutes this season.

3. What position would Modrić occupy?

On the rare occasions when Luka Modrić has started this season, the diamond formation has always been adjusted significantly. So, it was always going to be interesting to see what position he’d occupy here. Would he play almost in a double pivot alongside Camavinga like he did in the Osasuna game? Well, it was similar. Camavinga was certainly the deepest of the midfield quartet, but Modrić was close by, slightly to the right, while Valverde was even wider right. Meanwhile, Bellingham had the left pretty much all to himself. It was very asymmetrical, but it worked well. Modrić was excellent in supporting Valverde, with the Croatian posting seven key passes. Meanwhile, this shape created acres of space down the left by overloading the right, with Vinícius and Bellingham time and again having so much room to exploit.

Three questions

1. When can Real Madrid mathematically confirm qualification?

Real Madrid have taken nine points from a possible nine, with two of the games having been away from home. It could not have been a better start for Los Blancos in their favourite competition. So, when can they wrap up qualification mathematically? Well, in the very next round. A draw or a win at home to Braga at the Bernabéu on November 8th will mathematically put Real Madrid into the last 16.

2. Will Rodrygo take as long to score his next goal of the season?

It took Rodrygo just 28 minutes of the 2023/24 season to net his first goal. Then, it took another 871 minutes for him to score his second, which he bagged here with a fair slice of luck. Will that goal give the Brazilian the confidence he needs to kick on from here and to start scoring more frequently? You’d surely hope so.

3. Does Bellingham have an injury? What about Joselu’s virus?

There was concern in the final moments of the game when the club doctors had to come on to treat Jude Bellingham, who was then immediately substituted off. Hopefully that was just as a precaution. The Englishman didn’t appear to be limping much as he walked off and Carlo Ancelotti reassured the fans too in his post-match press conference. Then, there’s also the case of Joselu, who was left out the squad tonight because he was suffering from a virus. He might not have started the Clásico anyway, but that’s also far from ideal in this hugely important week.

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