Real Madrid took another three points on the road as they visited Las Palmas at Estadio de Gran Canaria, coming back to the capital with a 2-1 win having fought back from going behind to a goal from Javi Muñoz early in the second half. Vinícius Júnior levelled the scoreline 12 minutes later and Aurelién Tchouameni got the winner six minutes from time with a powerful header.
1. How would Real Madrid adapt without Jude Bellingham?
A fifth yellow card in LALIGA against Almería meant that Jude Bellingham was unavailable for this game and Carlo Ancelotti had a gap to fill. With rotations in midfield, Brahim Díaz came in for the more advanced role with Dani Ceballos filling the Bellingham position. The team struggled without his progression and creativity in the middle and it wasn’t until after Joselu and Fede Valverde replaced Brahim and Ceballos that things started to change with Real Madrid generating more chances. Even so, despite Bellingham’s influence, Real Madrid have a 100% win record without Bellingham in the team this season, taking five wins from five games.
2. Would the controversy this week affect the refereeing?
Since the drama of Real Madrid’s win over Almería, there has been non-stop controversy regarding the refereeing decisions which some believe helped Los Blancos to seal that victory. With VAR audios leaked, public complaints from several top flight coaches, and more, there were plenty of eyes on referee César Soto Grado and Eduardo Prieto Iglesias on VAR duties. Fortunately for all involved, there was little controversy in this one. Las Palmas had appeals for a penalty against Dani Ceballos ignored and Rodrygo’s flailing arm could have been punished more harshly by some referees, but neither call was controversial and the game did not require the intervention of VAR at any time. For once, the calm follows the storm.
3. Will Carlo Ancelotti make changes to his team?
After the Almería match, Carlo Ancelotti recognised his mistake in not making more changes to his line-up to combat fatigue. With a full week of rest since then, the first of 2024, it gave the Italian a decision to make regarding who should be in his starting XI. Changes were always going to be enforced for this game with Bellingham unavailable, but the coach did opt to rotate more than was necessary as he called upon the likes of Ceballos and Fran García in addition to Brahim, with Ferland Mendy and Luka Modrić remaining on the bench. There were options to go with a stronger side for a very difficult away trip, but Ancelotti gambled and his decision paid off with the reserves putting in some strong displays.
1. Can anyone mount a comeback like Real Madrid?
Another game where Real Madrid went behind and came back to win the match. It was the third time in the last five matches that it’s happened in all competitions, but few other teams can rival the spirit of this Real Madrid squad. Only Girona have earned more points after being in a losing position with 22, while Real Madrid and Liverpool are tied next in the ranking in Europe’s top five leagues. It was the seventh time Real Madrid have taken points after going behind in LALIGA this season, securing six wins and one draw, accounting for 35% of the team’s points this campaign. Even as Real Madrid hit a rough patch of form, Los Blancos continue to get results and pick up points.
2. Has Fran García earned a starting role again?
One of the stand-out performers in Gran Canaria was left-back Fran García, making his first start since the win over Arandina in the Copa del Rey on January 6th. He was one of those who Ancelotti turned to for fresh impetus against Almería but this display was one that will have put him firmly back into his coach’s thinking. His crossing wasn’t at its best, finding his target only once from seven attempts, but he did create three chances, second only to Toni Kroos in that regard, and won 60% of his ground duels and looked steady defensively. At 24 years of age, it’s unsurprising that he still needs some time as he settles into this Real Madrid team, but this was one of his better performances in a white shirt.
3. When will Vinícius Júnior become Real Madrid’s highest scoring Brazilian?
With his equalising goal, Vinícius moved ahead of Roberto Carlos to become Real Madrid’s second-highest scoring Brazilian with 70 goals. Ronaldo Nazario is in first place and is some 33 goals ahead on 103, so Vini still has some work to do before he can rival the great number nine for top spot. With seven shots in this game, five more than any other player, he showed exactly why he is the leading attacking force for Real Madrid, especially in the absence of Jude Bellingham. Playing like this, Vini can expect to catch Ronaldo in 2024/25, but is still working towards hitting double digits for goals in LALIGA this season. This was only his sixth goal in the competition in 2023/24, though he is averaging a goal every 159 minutes, compared to one every 283 minutes last season.