This was certainly one of the least interesting fixtures remaining on the schedule, but Real Madrid hosted and defeated Getafe 1-0 on Saturday night, right in the middle of the Manchester City tie. Although the focus right now is on the Champions League, there were a few interesting aspects from this LaLiga fixture and they’re discussed below in the form of three pre-match questions that were answered and three post-match questions we can answer now.
1. How “very very competitive” would Ancelotti’s line-up be?
With this game coming in between the two legs of the Manchester City semi-final, and with Real Madrid out of the LaLiga title race, this game was never going to be a priority for Los Blancos. While some wanted a complete overhaul of the line-up and for zero regular starters to be involved, Ancelotti stated that his starting XI would be “very very competitive”. While it did contain a few starters, the truth is that this was a heavily rotated line-up. More than that, it was a funky line-up. The back line made sense, including the return of Ferland Mendy. But, then there were midfield experiments going on, with Ceballos and Camavinga switching sides mid-way through the first half to become inverted No.8s. Then, in attack, we had a front line of midfielder Valverde, false nine Asensio and old man Hazard, which was as misshapen as it was uninspiring.
2. How would Ferland Mendy look after his injury?
With Ferland Mendy back in the line-up, all eyes were going to be on him and on how fit he would look. He had played just half an hour since January because of his physical issues, so it’d be interesting to see how he’d look in this start. While he’s obviously far from his physical peak still, Mendy was Mendy. He did Mendy things like bringing the ball out in his awkward but successful fashion. He also shut down most any threat from Getafe’s right wing, winning three of three ground duels and pinching an interception too. He did what he was supposed to do. But, the left-back position suddenly became much more dynamic once Camavinga moved there in the second half.
3. When did Carvajal even get suspended?
There was no Dani Carvajal for this game, which was probably for the best since he needs the rest to be able to go again in Manchester in midweek. The right-back couldn’t be involved tonight because he was serving a suspension. Most probably even forgot he was suspended, maybe even Carvajal himself, because it was so long ago that he was sent off away at Real Sociedad. 11 days had passed and Real Madrid had played 210 minutes of football since that red card. But, finally, Carvajal served that one-match ban and we saw Lucas Vázquez come in. The Galician has long been a decent enough replacement for Carvajal and once again put in a solid performance.
1. Has playing Vinícius become a box office matter?
Florentino Pérez knows better than anyone that football is a show. Selling football tickets is the same business as selling theatre or concert tickets, but even more lucrative. However, tonight’s front three of Valverde, Asensio and Hazard was not box office. Far from it. The first big cheer of the night was for Vinícius warming up and then, when he came on, the Bernabéu lit up. Suddenly, there was an in-form superstar on the field, and there can be nobody happier than the president. Even though they don’t mean much, Real Madrid have two more home league games after this and there’s a need to sell tickets somehow. Right now, Vinícius is that poster boy who’ll get people through the gates, but you need to convince people that he’ll play and the best way to do that is to keep playing him. Even though resting him before a big Champions League game is the number one priority right now, there’s also a business need at Real Madrid for the Brazilian to play, especially the home games. It was the same back in the day with Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid and Messi at Barcelona. Both superstars barely missed a game, and especially not a home game. The approach with Ronaldo and Messi was: if you’re going to rest them, do it on the road. Vinícius might be entering that status. It could be a long, long time before he misses another home game for rest reasons.
2. Can we stop putting Asensio at false nine?
This wasn’t the first time that Marco Asensio has been put at the false nine position to start a game. But, hopefully it’ll be the last. Asensio is versatile enough to play in a few different positions on the pitch, but centre-forward is not one of them. And, it’s telling that within 10 minutes of Mariano coming on to relieve the Spaniard of those No.9 duties, allowing him to move out to the right, that Asensio scored a typically Asensio goal to break the deadlock.
3. How injured is Camavinga? And how rested are the other starters?
Real Madrid ultimately secured a victory and, at the same time, managed to dish out rest ahead of the Manchester City second leg. Going through the 11 members of Ancelotti’s ‘Gala XI’, the minutes played by each in this game was as follows. Courtois: 90. Carvajal: 0. Militão: 90. Alaba: 0. Camavinga: 84. Valverde: 61. Kroos: 45. Modrić: 29. Rodrygo: 0. Benzema: 0. Vinícius: 29. There is some concern after Camavinga had to come off late on after taking a sore one, but hopefully it’s just a knock and little more. If he ends up being fine, it means the starters are all available and mostly well rested.