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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid 1-1 Atlético Madrid

A fourth Madrid derby of the season ended in a draw

Real Madrid CF v Atletico Madrid - LaLiga EA Sports Photo by Alvaro Medranda/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid made light work of Atlético Madrid in the fourth Madrid derby of the season, but were left without a reward as Marcos Llorente scored a late equaliser to make it 1-1 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, courtesy of a Brahim Díaz goal. Los Blancos showed their strength on home soil and battered the Atlético defence, who failed to clear on three separate occasions and allowed Brahim to score. After that, it was an intelligent tactical display which saw Carlo Ancelotti’s side almost see out their victory, until the Colchoneros pulled back an injury-time equaliser through ex-Madridista Marcos Llorente.

Three answers

1. How would Carlo Ancelotti set up his defence?

With Antonio Rüdiger an injury doubt after a strong collision against Getafe, and Aurélien Tchouameni suspended having picked up a fifth yellow card in the same game, Carlo Ancelotti had very limited options in defence. Pre-match, he addressed the talk by saying that Eduardo Camavinga could be an option, in addition to the more obvious candidates of Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy. In the end, it was the right-back who moved across into a central role with Lucas Vázquez. The decision seemed to be a defensive one, with Ancelotti clearly preferring the defensive solidity of Mendy on the left as opposed to the potential weakness of Fran García, and with Camavinga in the midfield, there was no alternative. Carvajal looked comfortable, perhaps benefitting from Álvaro Morata dropping deeper and not resting on the shoulder of the last man as he can occasionally.

2. Would Atlético be Real Madrid’s kryptonite for a third time this season?

Only one team has been able to beat Real Madrid this season, and that team is Atlético Madrid. In fact, not only had they been the only side to overcome Los Blancos, but they’d done so twice, in LALIGA in September and in the Copa del Rey. The Super Cup semi-final victory gave some revenge for the league defeat, but now the players were out for revenge for the Copa knock-out only a few weeks ago. What’s more, Atlético had scored three in the first two Madrid derbies of the season and four in the third. This time, the Colchoneros could not break down a makeshift defensive unit which looked solid and did not allow Atleti through at all. Their best bet came through crosses and set pieces from wide, and they had a goal ruled out for offside from such a chance, but at no point did they have the better of this game and Real Madrid looked dominant from start to finish against Atleti for the first time this season. The late blow to equalise was undeserved for Atleti, but the first time that Real Madrid went wrong.

3. How would the late injury to Vinícius Júnior influence the game?

There were only four minutes left to kick-off when the loudspeaker at the Bernabéu announced that Vinícius Júnior would not be taking part and the show was left without its star. Instead, they claimed it would be Joselu who would come in and replace him in the side, partnering with Rodrygo Goes. Only when the teams took to the turf, it wasn’t Joselu at all. The odd one out was instead Brahim Díaz. The change made more sense, in terms of a like for like replacement which would not mean a significant tactical shift just moments before the game kicked off. That choice was repaid on only 20 minutes, when Brahim, who wasn’t even in the line-up half an hour previously, showed his composure to give Real Madrid the lead. More details about Vini’s injury are yet to emerge, but it’s reported that he suffered a neck issue in the warm-up.

Three questions

1. Was this the game where Jude Bellingham’s defensive contribution was most clear?

There’s no shortage of praise for Jude Bellingham’s contribution since he joined Real Madrid in the summer, but much of that has been because of his contribution on the front foot with goals and assists. Instead, against Atleti, he stood out more than usual for his defensive contribution. That came as he effectively cut off Atleti’s outlet from deep positions. Typically, Atleti look to play the ball out quickly from the back with Axel Witsel feeding into Koke and then looking to distribute. Here, Bellingham effectively man-marked Koke throughout, forcing Atleti to go to the wide areas where they were out-numbered and a new press could be activated.

2. Does the Bernabéu roof make a difference?

The hours leading up to kick-off saw reports emerge that Atlético Madrid were not happy with Real Madrid’s decision to close the roof on the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. There is no protocol or criteria to follow in making the decision, and it is entirely at the discretion of the home team. In fact, Real Madrid are the only team in Spain to have a roof which they can close. Atleti’s concerns could be better understood when looking at the stats, which show that Real Madrid had a 100% win rate when playing with the roof closed at the Bernabéu. Getafe, Villarreal, and Mallorca have all fallen foul to the roof of the Bernabéu and the atmosphere inside when it is shut. Even as that winning streak comes to an end, Real Madrid remain unbeaten with the roof shut at the Bernabéu. As the business end of the season approaches, it could make all the difference.

3. Is Brahim Díaz underappreciated?

When the Bernabéu crowd realised that it would be Brahim Díaz taking the place of Vinícius Júnior, there was a sense of disappointment and unease, but perhaps unfairly so. The number 21 has been in superb form when starting games this season, and while he still has not worked his way into a starting role for the big games, he’d certainly earned this shot. From 11 starts this season in all competitions, he has now recorded six goals and three assists, and his presence on the right flank was crucial to give Rodrigo Riquelme nightmares and force Atleti into a change at half-time to try and adjust to the pace and movement of the triangles which Brahim was creating. There was no sign of him being underappreciated tonight, completing more dribbles than anyone else on the field and earning a standing ovation as he came off in the second half.

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