It was another sleepy start from Real Madrid in another early kick-off, but Los Blancos ultimately got the job done and took a 3-1 victory over Espanyol at the Bernabéu. With this game coming just before the Liverpool second leg, we’ve got some new questions to ask, while a few of our pre-match queries were also answered over the 90 minutes.
1. Would Real Madrid be awake in time for the early kick-off?
Real Madrid don’t like waking up in the morning. Or, at least it seems that way. Since Carlo Ancelotti’s return, Los Blancos have really struggled when playing early kick-offs. In their three previous games to start at the 14:00 local time timeslot, Real Madrid conceded the first goal. They did so in a 1-0 loss at Getafe last season, then they did so in the home game against Mallorca this season (which they came back to win 4-1) and in the away game at Mallorca last month, which they lost 1-0. So, would they have their coffee and corn flakes and start this early game brightly? No, they didn’t. It was a very sluggish start from Real Madrid, who conceded an early chance to Braithwaite before Joselu then put Espanyol ahead in minute eight. But, from there, Real Madrid finally awoke from their slumber and put in a decent final 80 minutes of the game to take the victory.
2. How many minutes would Álvaro Rodríguez get?
Ever since it was clear that Karim Benzema was going to miss this game, there were calls for Álvaro Rodríguez to get the start. We spoke about this recently on the podcast, explaining that Real Madrid need to find out just how good the kid actually is and that LaLiga games are actually the perfect opportunity to put him to the test because the title is basically gone. But, Carlo Ancelotti already shut down the calls for Álvaro to start in his Friday press conference, stating that Rodrygo would play at No.9 instead. Still, though, Álvaro was surely going to come off the bench. So when would that chance happen? Well, the 18-year-old wasn’t brought on until the 89th minute. That’s simply not enough time to evaluate a player, which is what Real Madrid must do with Álvaro between now and the end of the season. His lack of minutes today was a waste.
3. Would Joselu finally win the battle of the brothers-in-law?
I’m not going to lie. I write about this story here pretty much every time Joselu takes on Real Madrid, but only because it’s pretty neat. Given that Joselu and Dani Carvajal’s partners are identical twins, the two former Castilla teammates are now brothers-in-law and that makes their duels a family affair. It’s especially interesting because they actually play in a similar area of the pitch. Before today, Carvajal had won all five of their previous meetings: the 3-1 win over Espanyol earlier this season, plus two Real Madrid victories against Joselu’s Alavés as well as a pair of Bayer Leverkusen triumphs over Hoffenheim when both players were in the Bundesliga. Could Joselu finally take the family bragging rights? Well, he did score a great goal to get this game up and running, but Carvajal was ultimately on the winning side once again.
1. Where did all the Militão haters go?
Éder Militão will take a lot of the headlines and rightly so. The Brazilian scored the go-ahead goal at one end, but was also brilliant at the other end, making a decisive block on Braithwaite early on and then helping Real Madrid steady the ship at the back. He has been in great form for a while, so much so that Ancelotti has claimed he is the best centre-back in the world right now. But, spooling back to just a year ago, there were many Militão doubters, pointing to his €50m price tag. Now, that’s starting to look like a bargain.
2. When will Vinícius serve his second suspension?
In this same space last week, I asked ‘Will Vinícius have to serve another suspension?’. But, it’s already becoming clear that he is going to reach 10 yellow cards before the end of the season, and have to serve another yellow card accumulation ban – which you get after every five bookings. So, now lets ask when will Vinícius serve his second suspension? His yellow card in today’s first half was harsh, but it’s the eighth of his league season. What’s interesting is that the split is 50-50, as four of his bookings have been for fouls, like today’s, while the other four have been for dissent or arguments with the referee or opponents. He’s now just two away from having to sit another league game out and, to be honest, that could be a good thing if it comes around an important Champions League knockout tie.
3. Nacho or Camavinga vs Liverpool? Or is Mendy really ready?
It was interesting to see Nacho and Eduardo Camavinga playing alongside each other in this game, with the Spaniard at left-centre-back and the Frenchman at left-back. Even though Ancelotti expects Mendy will be given the medical all-clear in time for Liverpool, he’s surely not ready to be thrown straight in to such a high-intensity game, so Nacho and Camavinga are the two players realistically competing for the left-back role against the English side. Analysing Camavinga’s performance here against Espanyol, it was the same as we’ve seen in all his other games there. He’s dynamic in attack, but often out of position defensively. And that, ultimately, is the question Ancelotti needs to answer before Wednesday. Does he want the defensive soundness of Nacho or the attacking contributions of Camavinga?