Real Madrid produced a dominant performance in Cádiz on Saturday night and eventually won 2-0. Although the home side hit the post early on, Real Madrid then created chance after chance and eventually took two of them through nice strikes from Nacho and Marco Asensio. Although this was far from Real Madrid’s most important game of the week, there were still many takeaways and they’re discussed below.
1. How long would Benzema play?
Although many Madridistas wanted Karim Benzema to be rested for this largely meaningless LaLiga game, Carlo Ancelotti made it clear that the Frenchman was going to start. So, the question become ‘At what minute will he be substituted off?’. However, the number nine never did appear on the fourth official’s board. Benzema played the entire 90 minutes and, in his post-match press conference, Ancelotti explained that decision as so: “I told Benzema I’d play him and I told him to let me know if he got tired as I’d take him off, but he was able to stay on till the end.”
2. How would Rodrygo perform on the left?
It’s not often that Vinícius is out, meaning there are very few opportunities for Rodrygo to play on the left wing. But, this game was one of those rare occasions. So, how would the younger Brazilian do? Well, he did brilliantly. It was Rodrygo who drove the team forward in attack in this game and he was just as involved down the left as Vinícius normally is. In this match, Rodrygo had 14 dribble attempts and he was successful in nine of them. It was a high quantity and high quality game for him, and all that was missing was a goal.
3. Would we see a sibling rivalry?
When the line-ups were announced, we saw that Nacho was starting but that his brother Álex Fernández wasn’t. That was a shame, as this is always a fun sibling rivalry when those two are on the pitch at this same time, especially because they occupy a similar zone. So, would we see the Cádiz attacking midfielder come on at some point? Yes, yes we did. And, that substitution was just two minutes before Nacho’s goal, with Álex actually standing just a metre away when the centre-back hit his long-range strike. They’ll be talking about that one at family dinners for years to come.
1. What if Real Madrid had played this well in all their away LaLiga games?
It shouldn’t be understated just how well Real Madrid played in this game, registering an xG of 3.52. So, you have to wonder what could have been if they’d played this well in all of their away LaLiga games this season. Of course they’ve dropped some points at the Bernabéu too, but it’s the four LaLiga losses on the road that have really cost them in 2022/23. We saw in this game that there is sufficient squad depth to have put together a better title defence than Los Blancos have done.
2. How good has Asensio been this second half of the season?
Marco Asensio scored again and, as has been outlined in this column several times, these are the perfect games for him, the kind when he can be a bully against smaller LaLiga clubs. But, he has been especially good in recent weeks and his scoring stats make this clear. Asensio has now made 38 appearances for Real Madrid this season, most of them off the bench of course. In the first 24 of them, he scored just three goals. But, in his past 14 outings, he has netted six goals. The Mallorcan is looking sharp and looking like a man who is playing for a new contract.
3. Does this performance change the Chelsea second leg line-up?
Given all the rotations, it was clear that this was a line-up constructed with Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in mind. Some of the starters in Cádiz will repeat, like Courtois, Benzema and Militão, but most of those who’ll start the Chelsea second leg were given a rest and left out of this line-up. But, given that Real Madrid played so well, does this performance potentially change Ancelotti’s mind in any positions? Well, he admitted that yes, it might. As he put it: “Yes, this performance creates positive doubts because many of these players did well, like Tchouaméni, Ceballos and Asensio.” We’ll see in just a couple of days if this showing was enough to get any of them into the starting XI in London.