Despite going down to an early Sergio Arribas goal, Real Madrid bounced back well and won 3-1 at Almería courtesy of a Jude Bellingham brace and a Vinícius strike. That means Ancelotti’s men have taken six points from six to start 2023/24, a perfect start. Below, we answer three of the questions we had ahead of this match, as well as asking three new questions following this game on Spain’s south coast.
1. Would Arribas continue ‘the curse of the ex’?
Real Madrid have long suffered from a curious curse: the curse of the ex. When former players come up against Los Blancos, they tend to score. It has happened with all kinds of players over the years, from Fernando Morientes to Arjen Robben to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to Álvaro Morata and more. Now, Sergio Arribas was coming up against Real Madrid just days after completing his transfer to Almería… and of course he scored just three minutes in. For many Madridistas, especially those who have closely followed his youth career, this was no surprise, as he’s such a special player.
2. Would Almería cause Real Madrid more problems than Athletic?
After Real Madrid started the season with a convincing win against Athletic Club, you wondered if Almería would be able to do more in attack than the Basques did. And, they really did. This is still a squad in transition, with the many new signings at Almería still being integrated into the team, but Vicente Moreno has constructed a brave unit, one that got many men forward whenever they attacked. Almería particularly caused their guests problems in transition, with Real Madrid’s transition defence looking very haphazard. But, ultimately, Real Madrid had enough star quality at the other end.
3. Would Real Madrid miss Camavinga?
Not quite 100 percent fit, Eduardo Camavinga wasn’t able to start this game and his position was taken by Toni Kroos. So, would Real Madrid miss him? Well, you could say that they did miss his energy in their transition defence, but Kroos had a good game in attack as the German scored the goal that was disallowed and assisted the Bellingham go-ahead goal with a perfect cross. In the 72nd minute, Camavinga replaced Kroos and finished the game, able to take it easy thanks to Los Blancos’ comfortable position on the scoreboard.
1. Will Bellingham finish as top scorer?
It’s three goals in two games for Jude Bellingham, who is getting into good positions in the penalty area and who is displaying his finishing ability. With no world-class centre-forward in the squad this season, Bellingham is certainly carrying the goalscoring load so far. Might he even finish this campaign as the top scorer of the entire Real Madrid squad? Of the entire league? He was Dortmund’s top scorer last year, with his 14 goals, and he’s already flying in LaLiga.
2. Where is the captain?
We’re two games in to the new season and we haven’t seen the club captain Nacho yet. This is to be expected, as Nacho is in that strange position of being the club captain but also being the fourth-choice centre-back. But, for the captain to be on the bench is not something Real Madrid are used to. It’s Dani Carvajal who has worn the captain’s armband both matches so far, and it might be a while before he has to cede it to Nacho.
3. Lunin or Kepa next week?
Ancelotti already confirmed in Friday’s press conference that Lunin would be the one to start this game, not new signing Kepa. But, the expectation is that Kepa will take the gloves before long. Lunin did make a few saves in this game, but also parried some strikes that another goalkeeper might have gathered. Will the switch to Kepa take place for Friday’s game at Celta Vigo? It does feel like it will be then.