Real Madrid travelled to the Estadio Benito Villamarín on Saturday afternoon to take on Real Betis in LALIGA, emerging with a 1-1 draw. That came courtesy of a marvellous Jude Bellingham strike and a rocket from Aitor Ruibal which even Madridistas themselves would applaud given the quality of the effort.
1. Who would start in goal?
After Andriy Lunin kept three clean sheets in five games while Kepa was out injured, Carlo Ancelotti initially said that the former Athletic Club would return, but he continues to put off that decision and has stuck with the Ukrainian, even as he left the door open to rotation in goal in his press conference on Friday. If there was any pressure on Lunin as a result, he rose to the occasion and produced one of his best displays in a Real Madrid shirt. He made a total of four saves, denying 1.04 of xGoT with some impressive saves, such as to deny Isco early in the second half. Kepa will have been grinding his teeth watching on from the bench and wondering when he could be back in action. It’s not what he would have been expecting when he arrived on loan from Chelsea.
2. How would Lucas Vázquez get on replacing Dani Carvajal?
Lucas Vázquez had only started one game in LALIGA this season before taking on Real Betis, and it was the team’s worst performance of the season in the 3-1 defeat to Atlético Madrid. With Dani Carvajal out for the rest of the year, he was given a rare starting opportuntity to build some momentum and was entrusted with the right-back role against Betis. In doing so, he showed just how good Carvajal is and how much the team are missing him. Clumsy in tackles, perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty and also conceding three fouls, he won only four of his nine duels. On the ball, many moves collapsed once they spread to him on the right flank where his crossing and passing let him down too often. Nacho replaced him late on and may feel he can compete for the starting role.
3. Could Real Madrid avoid another Real Betis draw?
Real Betis had only been beaten twice this season in LALIGA, fewer than Atlético Madrid, Athletic Club or Real Sociedad ahead of them in the table. That’s because they have also drawn seven games, a figure only beaten by Mallorca in the league, with six coming in their last 10 games. That figure is now eight. While points dropped are disappointing for Real Madrid at any time, the Villamarín is a tough place to go and Betis are one of only four teams, including Real Madrid themselves, not to have suffered defeat on home turf. There was little that could be done about Aitor Ruibal’s rocket of a goal and Isco then hit the post at the death to suggest that it could have ended very differently.
1. How fit is Jude Bellingham?
You could have been expecting to see a slight drop in Jude Bellingham’s performance levels over the last couple of weeks. Ancelotti explained that his individual training regime is designed to help him overcome an ankle knock, in addition to his shoulder issues. Yet, here he was again to score another important goal to break the deadlock and give his team the lead with an excellent finish. He created a total of three chances, more than any Real Madrid player, and completed three of his four dribbles as he ran Betis ragged in the middle. Sergi Altamira and Marc Roca attempted to drop deeper to double up on him, but struggled to keep up with the pace and power of the England international. He was once again outstanding, but he continues to nurse two different injury worries as well as the rest of the team on his shoulders. The winter break can’t come soon enough.
2. Can anyone displace Brahim Díaz?
Despite this being Brahim Díaz’s first back-to-back start in LALIGA all season, he now seems to be one of the first names on the team sheet after his recent run of form. Here, it was his expertly weighted pass over the top which set up Bellingham to score Real Madrid’s only goal of the game. Brahim was not at the heart of all the action here as he has been in some other games since breaking back into the team, but he has been contributing regularly, even if only in a flash of a moment. That's more than the likes of Joselu can say, coming off the bench and offering little.
3. Will we see Luka Modrić play a full 90 minutes in one game for Real Madrid again?
For the third consecutive game in which Luka Modrić has started for Real Madrid, he was withdrawn on precisely 70 minutes. You’d have to go back to October 24th, and the win over Braga, for the last time he played more minutes in a game for Los Blancos, and he’s only done so three times this season (79 vs Osasuna and 80 vs Union Berlin). Over the same time period, he’s played the full 90 minutes for the Croatian national team on four separate occasions. Even so, he registered three shots and created one chance, contributing frequently to the team’s attack. He still has plenty to offer this team, but increasingly it seems that Ancelotti doesn’t believe he can do so over a full 90 minutes, and it appears more and more likely that his Real Madrid departure is closing in.