It’s three wins from three for Real Madrid, and this 1-0 victory at Celta Vigo was the most difficult contest so far. That’s in part because of a good Celta side, in part because of a penalty miss and in part because of an early injury to Vinícius, but Real Madrid dug deep and Jude Bellingham was the goalscoring hero again. All of that and more is discussed below in the form of three pre-match questions that were answered and three new questions that have come up.
1. Could Real Madrid spoil Celta’s centenary party?
This was always going to be a difficult game for Real Madrid, as they were visiting Celta on the week of their centenary. The Galician club turned 100 years of age on Wednesday, so this was an especially important game for the Celta fans and for the Celta players. And, the start of the game, with the early disallowed Celta goal, showed that the home side were really up for this one. But, Real Madrid withstood that early pressure, and the setback of a Vinícius injury, to grind out a 1-0 win with Jude Bellingham the goalscoring hero again.
2. Could Bellingham match Hazard’s LaLiga goals tally already?
The Bellingham buzz is growing with each match and, coming into this one, you had to wonder if he’d be able keep up his scoring streak in Vigo. There was also a mini milestone within reach of the Englishman: Eden Hazard’s LaLiga goals tally. During the Belgian’s four seasons in Spain, he scored just four league goals. Could Bellingham match that in just his third game? Yes, he could. The former Borussia Dortmund man was the hero again for Real Madrid, showing impressive strength to drag himself to the ball to head in the winning goal. It’s really incredible to think that Real Madrid’s last two 100m euro players both have four LaLiga goals, but that one has played three matches and the other 54.
3. Would the switch to Kepa be justified?
All eyes were on Kepa as he made his Real Madrid debut, with Ancelotti placing full trust in the Basque goalkeeper and even announcing that he’d replace Lunin as early as the pre-match press conference. So, how would he do? Well, it was a terrible start, as Kepa failed to collect an early corner and was then caught out by a late touch from Jørgen Strand Larsen after the ball was fired through a mass of bodies at the breakdown. Luckily for the goalkeeper, he was given a welcome-to-LaLiga gift by VAR, with the goal ruled out. That decision was debatable, but Kepa was off the hook and wasn’t really tested over the rest of the game. The jury is, therefore, still out on Kepa.
1. How long is Vinícius out injured for?
Every Madridista’s heart sunk when Vinícius went down injured at the beginning of this game. Although he initially tried to continue, the problem was too serious and the Brazilian had to go off injured. With Thibaut Courtois and Éder Militão already both out with long-term injuries, Real Madrid fans around the world are crossing all their fingers and toes in hope that this will be a far less serious issue than that. We’ll need to wait to see what the injury is and how long Vini will be out for, but the good news is that Real Madrid have just one fixture over the next three weeks, with Getafe at home coming up next weekend before the September international break. If it’s a minor injury, it means Vinícius could be back without missing much action, but all we can do for now is wait on the results of the tests.
2. What is Real Madrid’s system without Vinícius?
In the absence of Vinícius, what is Real Madrid’s system? It’s a question that hadn’t really been asked before tonight, because there was no need, but now Ancelotti has to work out how to set up his side without his franchise player. What we saw in Vigo, at least for a while at the start of the second half, was a very fluid 4-2-3-1 with Tchouaméni and Camavinga in the double pivot, then Valverde on the right, Bellingham in the middle and Rodrygo on the left, behind Joselu leading the line. Then, the surprising substitution to take off both Tchouaméni and Camavinga changed that up further, and it was all quite unstructured. So, what will the set-up be if Vinícius misses further action? Will Brahim be brought in to add more natural width? It’s a problem Ancelotti will hope he doesn’t have to solve for long.
3. Who should take Real Madrid’s penalties?
When Vinícius missed a penalty in the pre-season Clásico defeat in Texas, we asked the question of who should take Real Madrid’s penalties this season, now that Karim Benzema has departed. When Los Blancos won a spot kick in the second half in this game, it was Rodrygo, the player who won the penalty, who took it, but he couldn’t score. It’s true that it was more so an incredible save than it was a poor penalty, but a miss is a miss and this remains a major question mark. Might Joselu be a better option if he’s on the pitch? Or could the class of Kroos or Modrić be a better option from the spot?