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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s defeat to Atlético

Analysing the main talking points from the derby defeat.

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

After winning their first six games of 2023/24, Real Madrid suffered their first defeat of the season by falling 3-1 to Atlético Madrid in the derby. It was a tough night for Los Blancos, who conceded three separate headed goals. There is a lot to analyse, so let’s do so in the form of three pre-match questions that were answered and three new questions that have come up.

Three questions

1. Could Ancelotti keep up his good record against Atlético?

During Ancelotti’s second stint in charge of Real Madrid, he’d really started to master the derbies. In five meetings with Atleti since returning, the Italian had won three, drawn one and lost one. But, the sole defeat came at the end of the 2021/22 season, when the league title had already been wrapped up and when rotations meant only three usual starters began that 1-0 defeat. So, would Ancelotti be able to get the better of Simeone once more? Well no, not even close. This was a poor performance from Real Madrid and a poor night for the coach. As he put it after the match: “Maybe I could have done better with the system. When the team doesn’t do well, it’s my responsibility.”

2. Would Vinícius get any minutes?

After Vinícius was included in the squad on Saturday, Madridistas woke up on Sunday dreaming of a derby day victory and of Vini’s return. But, it wasn’t clear if he would actually get any minutes, given that he’d only just recovered from his injury and Ancelotti didn’t want to take any risks. Well, we got our answer to the Vinícius question far earlier than expected, when it was announced mid-afternoon that he had been withdrawn from the squad, due to gastroenteritis. So, no Vinícius for the derby, but he probably wouldn’t have played much of a role anyway. Las Palmas in midweek might be the better moment for the Brazilian to make his return.

3. How would the midfield line up?

With Joselu dropped from the derby line-up and with Rodrygo the only natural forward in the starting XI, there was some confusion before kick-off as to how the 11 players would actually line up. What we got was Bellingham playing further forward in attack, with Luka Modrić occupying the Bellingham role at the attacking tip of the diamond. Further back, it was Camavinga who played as the defensive midfielder, while Fede Valverde was on the right of midfield and Kroos was on the left. It didn’t really work, with one of the main problems from this set-up being the fact that Kroos isn’t the type of player to support Fran García sufficiently. Perhaps for that reason, Kroos and Camavinga switched roles towards the end of the first half. But, by then the main damage had already been done.

Three questions

1. Why did Ancelotti change a system that was working?

You have to wonder why the above changes to the midfield were made. Real Madrid had won every match so far and largely played well. So, why mix things up now? Why move Bellingham out of the position where he’d been thriving? Why start Kroos and Modrić together for the first time this season here? Why drop Tchouaméni for the derby? Ancelotti attempted to answer some of these questions in the post-match press conference, claiming that “Tchouaméni was rested because he had been playing a lot of matches, with his national team too” and that “we thought we’d have more control with another midfielder”. For a lot of Madridistas, those answers just don’t make sense.

2. What can Real Madrid do to stop conceding early goals?

The goals Real Madrid conceded in this derby will make for some tough viewing when the team have their next video session. To concede three goals to three crosses is inexcusable for a top team. What’s more, Real Madrid once again conceded early goals, letting in Morata’s two headers after three minutes of the first half and after half a minute of the second half. That follows on from the goals conceded inside the first quarter of an hour against Almería, Getafe and Real Sociedad. Why are Los Blancos conceding so many early goals? Is it just a lack of concentration? And what can be done to stop it?

3. How will Real Madrid respond to this first setback of the season?

This is the first setback of the season for this squad, after they’d won all six of their previous games. Real Madrid were the last team in Europe’s top five leagues to lose their 100 percent record, but now that they have tasted defeat how will they respond? There isn’t much time to lament this loss, as Las Palmas at home in LaLiga is coming up on Wednesday. We’ll soon see if Real Madrid can bounce back from this derby defeat with a victory.

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