Real Madrid enjoyed a comfortable Saturday afternoon at the Bernabéu, thrashing Osasuna 4-0 thanks to two more goals from Bellingham, one from Vinícius and another from Joselu, who also missed a penalty. There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s do so with three answers and three questions.
1. Who’d fill in at centre-back and how would they do?
With Militão and Alaba still out injured and with Nacho suspended, Real Madrid had just one senior centre-back for this game in Rüdiger. So, who’s accompany him in the centre of defence? In the pre-match press conference, Ancelotti revealed that his two main options were Mendy or Tchouaméni. So, who would he opt for? Well, he went for the latter, while Mendy was deployed at left-back. And, Tchouaméni had a game of ups and downs, as you’d expect from a non-centre-back filling in at centre-back. Generally, though, this was a very solid performance in central defence from the Frenchman. He is having as good a start to this season as he had to last season.
2. Could Modrić make the most of his opportunity?
Luka Modrić was making just his fourth start of the season in this game. With so much said and written about his recent lack of minutes, you knew he’d take to the pitch with a point to prove. What was curious was his deep positioning in this game. Playing in a similar part of the pitch to Camavinga, it reminded you of the Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso double pivot. One of them did the dirty work, while the other sprayed the passes up field. It was an exquisite performance from the Croatian, who played 84/93 passes, with 9/12 on long balls and with three key passes, not forgetting his important role in breaking through the lines for the opener.
3. Could Vinícius exploit his match-up against Jesús Areso?
There was a strange choice at right-back for Osasuna, as they went with Jesús Areso for this game instead of Nacho Vidal or Rubén Peña (who did play but on the left). You’d have to think that this was a deliberate decision and one that had Vinícius in mind. Given that Areso is the youngest of the Osasuna right-backs by far, perhaps Jagoba Arrasate felt he could keep pace with Vinícius best. But, Areso has many other inefficiencies in his game. So, could Vinícius exploit this? Well, for the first hour, no. Areso had his number early on. But, once Osasuna went chasing the game, more space opened up and Vinícius’ positioning was excellent. He managed to lose Areso and switch himself on to centre-back David García, who was the closest defender as the Brazilian had his two decisive moments, scoring the third and setting up the fourth. Vini still isn’t 100 percent, following his injury, but he’s getting there.
1. Has anyone ever done what Bellingham is doing?
Jude Bellingham is just ridiculous. The Englishman added another two goals in this game to take his tally from his first 10 Real Madrid games to 10 goals. That’s insane. Has it ever been done before? Well, yes, and he’s in esteemed company, as the last player to score this many goals across his first 10 Real Madrid games was a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. But, when you remember that Bellingham isn’t even supposed to be a forward, the stat is even more striking.
2. Where did Fran García go?
Has Fran García been properly dropped? It sure seems like it. Since the Madrid derby, where he clearly struggled, the Spanish left-back played 13 minutes as a substitute against Las Palmas and then zero minutes across the following three games. Camavinga started ahead of him against Girona and Napoli before Mendy got the nod today, with Fran García not even brought on as a substitute across these matches. It’s maybe a little harsh, as Fran García has shown plenty of promise when he played almost every minute over the first few weeks of the season. But, this is Real Madrid and he now knows that poor performances will bring consequences.
3. Will Camavinga be afforded the consistency he deserves?
This wasn’t the best Camavinga game, as he was positioned in defensive midfield this time, but is it any surprise? Camavinga being so good in any position has become a meme, and Ancelotti is making the most of his versatility, but it’s a shame for the young Frenchman that he is being moved around so much. It’s not just that he’s having to change roles, but that he is rarely given two games in a row in the same position. In the 2023/24 campaign so far, there are just two instances where Camavinga has started two games in a row in the same position: Celta Vigo then Getafe (both left midfield), and Girona then Napoli (both left-back). Just give this talent the consistency in his positioning that he deserves.