For 32 years in a row, Real Madrid have made it through their Champions League group. By defeating Braga 3-0 on Wednesday night, Los Blancos booked their ticket to the next round and also enjoyed a confidence boost, as Brahim, Vinícius and Rodrygo all got on the scoresheet. The talking points from this one are outlined below, in the form of three questions that were answered and three new questions this game has thrown up.
1. Would Real Madrid secure qualification?
The main question coming into this game was simply whether Real Madrid would secure qualification. They knew that a draw or a win would be enough and the news just before kick-off that Napoli had drawn with Union Berlin put them in an even better position to top the group. The early penalty may have scared the Bernabéu for just a moment, but Lunin made a great save and Real Madrid went on to win 3-0, with goals from Brahim, Vinícius and Rodrygo. Qualification is mathematically sealed, and now the only objective remaining is to try to stay in first place in the group.
2. Would the formation change with Bellingham not starting?
Real Madrid’s departure from the 4-3-3 this season was primarily because of Jude Bellingham. Ancelotti has explicitly stated that the Englishman’s unique skillset required a tweak of the scheme. But, with Bellingham suffering a minor shoulder injury and not starting this one, would Real Madrid return to the 4-3-3? The answer was no. Brahim Díaz, who was the player coming in for Bellingham, was permitted to drift around the central and left-leaning tip of the diamond, just like Bellingham has been doing. When he converted the opener, his arrival into the box and the finish was almost a carbon copy of what Bellingham has been doing all season.
3. Would Camavinga pick up a suspension?
Now that we’re a few games into this tournament, we can start thinking about yellow card suspensions. Up until the semis, a player is suspended after collecting three bookings and Camavinga came into this Matchday 4 game as the only player in the squad already on two. So, would he pick up a suspension for the upcoming Napoli game? And, would that maybe even be a good thing to serve the ban and wipe his slate clean before the knockouts? Well, Camavinga – who played excellently as the pivot, it has to be said – did come close to receiving a booking in the first half for dissent. But, he ultimately avoided the referee’s notebook.
1. Will Brahim get minutes even when Bellingham plays?
The only other match Brahim had started this season before tonight was the home game against Las Palmas, which just happened to be the other game when Bellingham was out. It seems that Ancelotti views Brahim’s skillset as being right for backing up Bellingham, but not much else. So, will Brahim’s good performance have convinced the Italian coach to trust him in other positions? Or will Brahim only really play when Bellingham is missing?
2. What must Lunin have been thinking in minute five?
After Kepa felt some discomfort during the warm-ups, Lunin became an emergency starter in this game. And, five minutes into it, he faced a spot kick. The Ukrainian saved from Álvaro Djaló to keep the scores level. What must he have been thinking in that moment? Given that half an hour before that penalty was taken Lunin thought he’d be on the bench, this must have been quite the rollercoaster.
3. When will we get to see Arda Güler?
With the score at 3-0 and with Real Madrid comfortable, most of the Bernabéu expected to see Arda Güler make his debut in the final few minutes of this game. In the end, though, the fifth and final change was Fran García for Ferland Mendy, which brought an audible sigh from many in the crowd. Ancelotti has said that the Turkey international will be eased in. But, how and when exactly? There won’t be many more opportune moments than being 3-0 up in a Champions League group game.