The third Madrid derby of the season finished in a draw, which could prove to be very costly for Real Madrid as they have now virtually said goodbye to any lingering hopes of winning this year’s LaLiga title. Besides what it meant for their positioning in the standings, this derby was important for several other reasons and it answered a few of our pre-match queries, while it has now thrown up several more questions, especially about Álvaro Rodríguez.
1. Would Tchouaméni and Camavinga start alongside each other?
In Friday’s pre-derby press conference, Ancelotti was asked with one of the questions about the possibility of Aurélien Tchouaméni and Eduardo Camavinga starting this Madrid derby in a double pivot. The assumption was that surely at least one of them would start the game, and maybe both. “They’ll play alongside each other soon,” he said. But, neither of the Frenchmen started this game. They were “alongside” each other, but on the bench and then on the sidelines warming up. I don’t think that’s what Ancelotti meant. And I don’t think it’s what Real Madrid fans wanted.
2. How would Atlético set up tactically?
It’s weird, because Ancelotti and Simeone are usually two of the most predictable coaches around in terms of their line-ups. But today, as well as being caught off guard by the Italian’s Real Madrid starting XI, the Argentine’s Atleti team sheet also raised a few eyebrows. How would it look once the game started? Who was playing where out of Carrasco, Saúl and Llorente? And, was Griezmann really going to be the furthest forward player? Once the game started, we saw that Griezmann was indeed the furthest forward in a 4-4-2, accompanied by Carrasco playing high on the left too. But, whatever Simeone’s thinking was, we only got to see that plan for 20 minutes, as the injury to Reinildo saw him switch to a 5-3-2. The red card to Ángel Correa then changed the visitors’ scheme again. With all that change, Real Madrid could have done more to exploit this, but perhaps all that tinkering confused Los Blancos too.
3. With all eyes on Gil Manzano, how would he perform?
You know it’s Madrid derby week when the local radio and TV stations rage about the refereeing appointment for the game. And, of course, the past few days were no different in Madrid. Jesús Gil Manzano is probably Atlético Madrid’s least favourite referee, while the Extremaduran official has also angered Real Madrid with some of his recent performances. “Knowing that everyone is watching him, he’ll want to have the best performance possible,” Simeone said ahead of the game. And, for the first hour, he was having a fairly good game, letting the players play as much as possible and booking just two players from each team, mostly for counter-attack-stopping fouls. Then, Gil Manzano decided that this decaffeinated derby needed a shot of Red Bull, and he decided to send off Ángel Correa with one of the worst refereeing decisions in the history of this fixture. From there, he lost control and started making more and more mistakes, against both sides. So, if the pre-match question was whether we’d be talking about Gil Manzano after the game then yes, we will.
1. What does the future hold for Álvaro Rodríguez?
There are many talking points to come out of this derby, but let’s start with the most positive one. Let’s start with Álvaro Rodríguez. A week after the 18-year-old came on as a substitute at Osasuna and set up two goals, even if only one of them counted, this time the young centre-forward headed in a derby equaliser, a moment he will never forget. It’s so very exciting for Real Madrid that they have such a player coming through the academy, a player tall enough to offer something different from the No.9 position. What does the future hold for him, in the short term and long term? How high is his ceiling? Nobody can answer that. But, he has provided Madridistas with something to get excited about, already following the footsteps of Raúl by scoring his first senior Real Madrid goal against Atlético Madrid.
2. How would the triple midfield substitution have worked without the red card?
Just a minute before the Correa red card, Ancelotti completely changed his midfield. He brought on Camavinga and Modrić for Kroos and Ceballos, while Tchouaméni was substituted on for Asensio, with Valverde moving out of midfield and into the winger’s spot. That was a huge roll of the dice. But, we never got to see how it would have worked out in normal circumstances. One minute later, Atleti went down to 10 men and that changed the entire dynamic of the game. So, we never quite got to see how Ancelotti’s entire midfield switch would have worked against 11.
3. Is this goodbye to LaLiga?
With this draw, Barcelona have the chance to move 10 points ahead of Real Madrid if they win at Almería on Sunday evening. That would be a huge amount of points to try to claw back with only three months of the season to go. So, have Real Madrid already said goodbye to LaLiga? Ancelotti said that no, they haven’t, in his post-match press conference, but obviously he has to say that. It’s surely time now for Los Blancos to focus on the Copa del Rey Clásicos and on making another Champions League run.