Real Madrid’s frustrating week continued with a goalless draw at Real Betis, one which sees Los Blancos fall further behind Barcelona at the top of the table. Even if it was a frustrating game, there were several interesting aspects to it and we look at three pre-match questions that we had and three new questions that we have below.
1. Would Real Betis’ style of play suit Real Madrid better?
Following the frustrating attacking performances against Atlético and Barcelona, both of whom played very defensively against Real Madrid for different reasons, there was a sense pre-match that Betis might be the kind of opponent that would suit Los Blancos more. Pellegrini’s side play fairly open and attacking football, so maybe there would be more transition opportunities here than there had been in the two rivalry matches. And, that proved to be the case, in the sense that it was a very open game, especially in the first hour. The problem was that Real Madrid still couldn’t score. It was interesting to hear Carlo Ancelotti say in his post-match press conference that: “This was an open game and that’s what we wanted, but I don’t think we were so good when the game was more open in the first half.” Even if Real Madrid got the stylistic match-up they thought they wanted, there’s something much deeper and more underlying wrong with their offence right now.
2. Would the more attacking full-backs help the attack?
In the post-Clásico podcast we had late on Thursday night, one major talking point was about the full-back position and the short-term and long-term problems Real Madrid have there in terms of getting attacking output. Here, Ancelotti made a refreshing line-up decision by shaking up both full-back spots, starting Lucas Vázquez over Dani Carvajal and Eduardo Camavinga over Nacho. In both cases, this was a clear sacrifice of defence for offence. Would it work? Well, on the left side especially, it really did seem to work. Camavinga was able to get forward and either combine with Vinícius or occupy defenders to free up space for the Brazilian. The most obvious example of this working was when the Frenchman set up Vini for a shot inside the box, although the Brazilian couldn’t keep his attempt down.
3. No Ceballos? No party?
It was strange to see Dani Ceballos left out of the starting line-up of El Clásico and perhaps even stranger to see him on the bench once again here, for this game against his former club. With Luka Modrić suspended and with Ceballos fresh, surely he’d have been useful as a starter? Well, not in the view of Ancelotti, who eventually put Ceballos on in the 64th minute. It was from that point onwards that Real Madrid had more control of the game and started to seriously look like a winner might be coming, with the midfielder himself having one of the best chances of the final stages as he flashed a volley just wide. Shouldn’t he be starting more?
1. Why was the Benzema freekick ruled out?
When Benzema was sliding on his knees to celebrate his freekick goal in the opening minutes, it was strange when the broadcast cut to the image of the referee with his finger to his ear. How could a freekick goal possibly be ruled out? Well, as it turned out, the shot had struck Antonio Rüdiger’s arm on the way past the wall and they were checking for a handball. Some thought it shouldn’t have been ruled out because Rüdiger’s arm was in a natural position, but the rules are different for when the ball strikes an arm and then goes straight in. As the laws of the game state: “It is an offence if a player scores in the opponents’ goal directly from their hand/arm, even if accidental.” That’s why the goal was ruled out, and correctly so.
2. Will Vinícius have to serve another suspension?
This was another game where Vinícius was involved in as many off-the-ball conflicts as on-the-ball ones. He kept getting distracted, which wasn’t helpful, while he also picked up another yellow card for arguing with the referee one too many times. It means the Brazilian is now on to seven yellow cards this LaLiga season. He already had to serve one suspension when he reached five, though luckily that was against Elche. But, he is just three yellows away from having to miss another LaLiga game with suspension. Will that happen before the end of the campaign? At this rate, it seems inevitable. Perhaps it won’t matter because Real Madrid seem out of the title race already, but it’s not ideal for a team’s star forward to be at suspension risk for these avoidable kinds of bookings.
3. Why is Álvaro Rodríguez coming on if there are no crosses towards him?
Real Madrid have a new weapon in the form of Álvaro Rodríguez. Even if he wasn’t brought on until the 87th minute, by measuring in at 1.92m his height and striker’s instinct can be useful in these kinds of need-a-goal situations. But, not if nobody crosses the ball to him. It was strange to see Real Madrid so reluctant to put in crosses during the minutes when Álvaro Rodríguez was on the pitch and Ancelotti was challenged on that after the game. He agreed, replying: “It’s true. We’re not always picking the best options right now.” That sums Real Madrid’s past week up.