Real Madrid played arguably their easiest fixture of the season on Wednesday night, as they hosted a historically bad Elche side and got the job done, earning a 4-0 win. Three first-half goals sent them well on their way, before Luke Modrić fired in a sumptuous fourth in the second half. This game won’t live long in the memory, but it did answer a few questions and it did throw up a few more.
1. Could Real Madrid hit five again?
One of the criticisms of Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid is that they don’t put on as many goalfests as they probably should. When they beat Al Hilal 5-3 on Saturday in the Club World Cup final, that was just the second time this season that they’d scored five times in a match, the other being the 5-1 win over Celtic in this year’s Champions League group stage. With the attacking talent at their disposal, you’d expect Real Madrid to thrash opponents more often, and Elche at home was a great opportunity to do so. This is a terrible Elche team, one which could go down as the statistically worst ever LaLiga participant. And, Real Madrid duly thrashed them, with Asensio getting the scoreboard ticking nice and early with his eighth minute goal, before two first-half Benzema penalties meant the result was beyond doubt by half-time. It did take a while for the fourth to arrive, but when it did, it was worth the wait as Luke Modrić fired in a very well-struck shot. Real Madrid didn’t get to five again, but at least they did put on a goalfest for the fans who came out to the Bernabéu on this cold Wednesday night.
2. How would Rodrygo do on the left wing?
With Vinícius suspended, this was a rare opportunity for Rodrygo to start on the left wing. Even though the younger Brazilian is more versatile, this is, in theory, his best position too. So, how would he do there? Well, he was electric right from the beginning, providing three key passes inside the opening 15 minutes. He ultimately finished the night with four key passes, one penalty won, five successful dribbles out of nine attempts and a 97 percent passing accuracy. It has to be kept in mind that this was Elche he was up against, and he was taking on a very inexperienced full-back in José Ángel Carmona, but Rodrygo absolutely made the most of his opportunity.
3. How would the new new pitch look?
The pitch that tonight’s Real Madrid vs Elche game was played on was the third surface that has been laid down at the Bernabéu this season. The other two both suffered a lot from unusually cold snaps and from the constant dust that hovers over the Bernabéu because of the construction works. It’s obviously a costly process and it’s not ideal for the players either, so hopefully this turf can last until the end of the season. The fact we’re about to leave the Madrid winter behind should help with this, but the dust will remain.
1. Can Benzema actually retain his Pichichi award after all?
Given how much game time Benzema missed in the first half of the season, and given how many goals Robert Lewandowski was scoring, it seemed impossible to think that the Frenchman could retain the Pichichi Trophy he won last season as the league’s top scorer. But, with his two penalties tonight, he is already on to 11 league goals for the season and is up to joint-second in the standings, only three behind Lewandowski’s 14 goals. Can the Real Madrid No.9 make a comeback and claim this award despite missing so many games? It would be one of Benzema’s greatest achievements if he can do it.
2. Is Marco Asensio a bully?
In the kindest possible way, Marco Asensio might be a bully. Since the start of 2022, he has scored 11 goals and they have been against: Alcoyano, Granada, Alavés, Real Sociedad, Osasuna, Espanyol, RB Leipzig, Elche, Celtic, Valencia and Elche again. Apart from Real Sociedad and RB Leipzig, none of these are particularly strong opponents. Part of the reason why Asensio is scoring against weaker opponents and not stronger sides is that he tends to play more in these kinds of ‘easier’ games. But, that’s why it’s so useful for Real Madrid that Asensio has the potential to be a bully. If he renews his contract, most of his minutes will come in these kinds of games when other better players are being rested, so the fact he is capable of producing these great goalscoring moments against weaker defenders makes him a very valuable asset to the club. Not every backup forward has that ability.
3. How many penalties will Real Madrid finish this season with?
Real Madrid are winning a lot of penalties this season. With the two penalties blown for them tonight, the total awarded to Los Blancos this season now stands at 15 across all competitions, of which 11 have been converted. They’re already just one behind the total of 16 that were awarded to Real Madrid last season, and we’re only in mid-February. They could even finish this campaign with more penalties won than in any other season of the past 10 years, with the 18 spot kicks won in 2017/18 being the highest tally for Real Madrid penalties in a single season in the past decade. How many will they finish with this campaign? Well, given the way they’re constantly threatening in the box, it could end up being above 20.