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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s loss in Mallorca

The talking points from a heated game on the island.

RCD Mallorca v Real Madrid CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Cristian Trujillo/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid’s Sunday started early and it started badly, as they lost 1-0 away at Real Mallorca because of an early Nacho own goal and a saved Marco Asensio penalty. This was one of the most heated games outside of a derby that Real Madrid have played for some time, so we have several pre-match issues to tackle and new post-match ones too.

Three answers

1. How important would Courtois’ injury be?

The big storyline in the hour before the match was the fact that Thibaut Courtois suffered an injury during warm-ups and had to pull out of the starting XI, handing Andriy Lunin a surprise start. Losing the best goalkeeper in the world is obviously a blow, so would that make a difference? Well, not really. Lunin himself stated in a post-match interview that he wished he could have done more on Nacho’s own goal, but it was a flukey kind of play and not really his fault. After that, there was just one Real Mallorca attempt on target. So, this defeat might have happened anyway even with Courtois in goal.

2. Would the lack of rest time mean tired legs?

Another pre-match taking point was Real Madrid’s lack of rest time, as there were just 61 hours between full time against Valencia and kick off on the island. Given that Real Mallorca hadn’t had a midweek game, they’d had a full 190 hours to recover after their last outing. But, it didn’t actually seem to have that much of an impact. Real Mallorca won this game because of a lucky own goal, a brilliant penalty save and a gameplan of fouling the opposition as much as possible. Tiredness didn’t really have anything to do with it, even if the short rest time surely didn’t help.

3. Vinícius and Carvajal vs Maffeo and Raillo: Who’d some out on top?

We knew that this game had the potential to become spicy. That’s because it finished that way when these sides met earlier in the season, as Vinícius ran rings around the defenders when Real Madrid were several goals up. In response, both Pablo Maffeo and Antonio Raíllo have strongly criticised the Brazilian in interviews with the media. Then, Dani Carvajal was heard saying in Real Madrid training that he was going to “have a word or two with Raíllo” during the game. So, we expected fireworks and we got them. Vinícius was fouled a career-high 10 times in this game, while he too was yellow carded for fouling Maffeo – and will miss the next LaLiga game – and he was nearly sent off for arguing in the referee’s face. On the other hand, Vini had one moment to celebrate when he won a penalty. There was even some unique footballing warfare taking place too, as Raíllo at one point urged Vini to kiss the Mallorca badge on his shirt. It was quite an even battle throughout, but ultimately, since they won, the Real Mallorca players came out on top.

Three questions

1. Is this Ancelotti’s ideal midfield?

There was a curious comment before the game from Ancelotti, as he stated: “Our best possible line-up will play [vs Mallorca]. That could include Modrić and Kroos, or it could not.” Of course, neither the Croatian nor the German started the match, with Fede Valverde, Aurélien Tchouaméni and Dani Ceballos starting in midfield instead. So, does this mean that this is the trio Ancelotti considers to be his “best line-up”. Well, in his post-Mallorca press conference, he backtracked a little and offered excuses for why Modrić and Kroos might not have been in optimal conditions and, therefore, not the best possible options to start. He said that Kroos had picked up a knock in midweek and that Modrić was fatigued. But, this might just be a classic case of the Italian pouring cold water on a hot topic. It might well be that Fede, Tchouaméni and Ceballos is his preferred midfield trio right now.

2. Do Real Madrid need to sign a proper Benzema backup?

Real Madrid looked more likely to score an equaliser once Mariano was substituted on, with the barely-used striker having two opportunities that he couldn’t quite take. Once Antonio Rüdiger went up to position himself in the opposition penalty area, there were even more opportunities. In other words, once Real Madrid had a target man or two, they were able to cause Real Mallorca problems. Obviously, it might have been a difference game from the very beginning had Benzema been available, but the Frenchman missed his 11th game of the 32 played this season, meaning he has missed 34 percent of Los Blancos’ fixtures. If Benzema is going to keep missing so many matches as he gets older and if Mariano is still going to be Mariano, surely Real Madrid need a reliable backup as a No.9? Rodrygo can do a job there on some occasions, but not always.

3. How much does this result hurt Real Madrid’s title chances?

This defeat hurts a lot because it could leave Real Madrid with a mountain to climb in the LaLiga title race. If Barcelona defeat Sevilla later on Sunday, they’d open up an eight-point gap with both sides having played the same number of games. With Los Blancos then away at the Club World Cup, Barça could then make it an 11-point gap if they defeat Villarreal next weekend. Even though Real Madrid would then have a game in hand, that’s a daunting gap to consider. Today really has been a blow to Real Madrid’s chances of defending their LaLiga championship.

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