Real Madrid once again engineered a special comeback to secure all three points from Mallorca’s hand on Sunday. The game at Santiago Bernabeu was closely fought in the first half, but was followed was a ruthless demolition of the visitors.
Vedat Muriqi opened the scoring in the 35th minute but the joy was short-lived as the hosts equalised on the cusp of half-time. Then, Carlo Ancelotti’s men struck thrice in the second half to down their opponents and move back atop the La Liga standings.
There are several positives to take away from the game at Bernabeu but also a couple of glaring problems that warrant urgent resolution. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid’s win over Mallorca on Sunday.
1. No Benzema, no worries
The big talking point ahead of Real Madrid’s clash against Mallorca was the absence of Karim Benzema. The French international suffered a knee injury midweek against Celtic and was unavailable for the clash today.
There was speculation as to how Ancelotti could fill the void left by Benzema. After all, he was not only the team captain but also their primary goalscorer.
Yet, Real Madrid had few problems without their talisman. Los Blancos put four past Mallorca at the Bernabeu and showed the world that they do not depend on any individual player to score goals.
Federico Valverde opened the scoring with an unbelievable solo effort late in the first half to equalise the scores. Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo took their shares of spoils in the second half before Antonio Rudiger completed the scoring in stoppage time.
Interestingly, all three departments contributed to the goals on the afternoon when the team lacked its central striker. This just goes to show that, if need be, Los Blancos can produce the goals from anywhere.
2. The Brazilian samba
Real Madrid and Florentino Perez have been very active in the Brazilian market in recent years. Unsurprisingly, the team now has several young stars from the South American country with many more in the line to impress.
Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo are arguably the most famous Brazilian players at Real Madrid right now and have become extremely vital to Ancelotti’s plans. It is often easy to forget that the two players are just 22 and 21 years old, respectively.
The duo started against Mallorca and took the pitch by storm. They wreaked havoc in the visitors’ box, often toying with defenders and creating chances. In the end, they had two goals and an assist between them to show their involvement.
Real Madrid’s second goal of the game saw both Brazilians combine in a scintillating fashion. Rodrygo received the ball in midfield and went on a mazy run to take out several defenders from the equation.
He then spotted his compatriot’s run and slid in a pass and Vinicius finished past the opposition goalkeeper to give his team the lead.
In the 89th minute, Rodrygo gave the world another glimpse at his talent. The youngster shook the Mallorca defence with the ball at his feet, leaving two defenders on the ground and another one stranded before calmly slotting the ball past the goalkeeper.
It may have taken a couple of seasons for Real Madrid’s Brazilian stars to develop and adapt to the team but one can now say that the wait was well worth it.
3. Where are the clean sheets?
Real Madrid have already played five league games this season but have conceded a goal in every single outing. The lack of a clean sheet one month after the commencement of the league is worrying, to say the least.
The responsibility has to be put on both the goalkeeper and the defence, more so on the latter.
Thibaut Courtois averages over 2.5 saves per game with a save percentage of 72% in La Liga this season. There was little that he could do in most of the goals conceded, but the same cannot be said about the defence.
Against Mallorca too, Los Blancos conceded a goal purely because of their awful defending. While Kang-in Lee’s delivery of the set-piece was perfect, both Antonio Rudiger and Ferland Mendy were sloppy in marking their men.
Needless to say, it is unacceptable for a team of Real Madrid’s stature to concede from a set-piece.
The clean sheet has evaded the Spanish side for too long and it will be amongst Ancelotti’s priorities to fix this situation. Last season, the team kept 16 clean sheets in La Liga and things will have to change immediately if they are to better that number this season.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Osasuna
After a two-week hiatus from club football, Real Madrid return to action on Sunday night in a home game against Osasuna. The league leaders have been unstoppable so far this season, and the objective at the Bernabeu will be to keep their fine form going.
Jagoba Arrasate’s side have enjoyed a positive start to the season with four wins in six games so far. The Pamplona-based side sit sixth in the league standings ahead of the likes of Villarreal and Atletico Madrid.
Carlo Ancelotti will make several changes in his starting lineup on the night – some forced and some out of choice. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Los Blancos’ weekend clash.
1. Time to kick in the nitros
Real Madrid have been flawless this season and are the only club in the European top-flight to have not dropped a single point. While their start to the season has been nothing short of a fairytale, one wonders how long they can keep the magical streak going.
The month of October brings with it one of the most hectic schedules the club has seen in recent years. Over the next 30 days, Los Blancos play nine games across all competitions. In short, the equation boils down to a game every three days.
To come out on top in all nine games will require a superhuman effort from the Real Madrid players, but one knows well that the squad is capable of it. The team are in a strong headspace, and injecting the right amount of fuel at this point could propel their throttle and see them weather the storm.
A job well begun is half done, and Carlo Ancelotti will hope that his men can make a strong start to the month on Sunday night.
2. Coping without Modric
The FIFA International break has been cruel to clubs across the globe, with several key players returning injured and facing several weeks on the sidelines. The story for Real Madrid is no different.
Luka Modric played every minute of Croatia’s two friendlies in the last two weeks and even scored a goal in their 3-1 win over Austria. However, he suffered an injury to his hip and faces 8-10 days on the sidelines.
The veteran, at 37 years of age, has arguably been Real Madrid’s best player this season. In eight games, he has scored two goals and provided one assist for Los Blancos and continues to show the world why he is one of the best the game has seen.
Modric is expected to return for the Clasico in two weeks. However, one cannot help but wonder how Ancelotti compensates for such a big void.
It has been reported that the manager sees Dani Ceballos as the ideal man for the job. The 26-year-old impressed when given the start against Mallorca earlier this season, making four key passes and bagging one assist. Now, he could have his moment and a chance to prove his worth to the manager.
In Modric’s absence, Ceballos could start alongside Aurelien Tchouameni and Toni Kroos in the middle of the park. With Eduardo Camavinga quickly climbing up the pecking order, the 26-year-old must make the most of his chance on Sunday to secure a place in the coming games.
3. The return of the gladiator
After a slow start to the season, Karim Benzema bounced back with a brace against Espanyol on Matchday three. Just when it seemed like he had found his stride, however, he suffered a thigh injury and was ruled out for close to three weeks.
While the team found alternate sources of goals in his absence, it was clear that Los Blancos lacked a dominant presence in the box in recent weeks. With Benzema’s recovery close to complete, all eyes will be on him to see if he can find his feet again.
In his pre-match press conference, Ancelotti confirmed that the French international would start on Sunday though it is unlikely that he will play all 90 minutes. Nevertheless, this comes as a big relief to Real Madrid, given that they have no natural replacement for the centre-forward.
The captain will look to make a statement on his return on Sunday and will likely be deployed alongside Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo.