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After Real Madrid’s victory at Braga, three questions and three responses by…

Real Madrid won 2-1 at Braga to begin their European campaign with three wins out of three, putting them one and a half feet into the Champions League knockout stages. Rodrygo and Bellingham got the goals, with Vinícius setting up both, so there’s plenty to discuss.

Three questions

1. How many rotations would we see?

This was the ideal game to rotate and rest starters because Real Madrid was already leading their group and El Clásico was soon. So, how many Clásico starters would Ancelotti sit? Well, not too many actually. Of the players who are pretty much guaranteed to start on Saturday against Barcelona, only Tchouaméni and Alaba were left out of tonight’s starting line-up. Mendy and Kroos might have started in Barcelona as well, which could explain their exclusion, but could not players like Carvajal, Valverde, Vinícius, and Bellingham have benefited from a rare break as well? The difference in importance between this group game and Saturday’s Clásico really can’t be overstated.

2. Surely this was the perfect game for Brahim?

Sticking with the subject of rotations, one of the players who could easily have come in to start this game was Brahim. And, astonishingly, he was not even used off the bench. Considering the Spaniard has done well when given a chance, considering this wasn’t the most important game in the world and considering the Clásico is coming up, you’d have thought Brahim could have been given a run-out, more than anything to provide rest for one of the regular starters. But, no, Brahim had to watch this one entirely from the bench and couldn’t add to his tally of 118 minutes this season.

3. What position would Modrić occupy?

On the rare occasions when Luka Modrić has started this season, the diamond formation has always been adjusted significantly. So, it was always going to be interesting to see what position he’d occupy here. Would he play almost in a double pivot alongside Camavinga like he did in the Osasuna game? Well, it was similar. Camavinga was certainly the deepest of the midfield quartet, but Modrić was close by, slightly to the right, while Valverde was even wider right. Bellingham, meanwhile, had the left essentially to himself. It was very asymmetrical, but it worked well. Modrić was excellent in supporting Valverde, with the Croatian posting seven key passes. Meanwhile, this shape created acres of space down the left by overloading the right, with Vinícius and Bellingham time and again having so much room to exploit.

Three questions

1. When can Real Madrid mathematically confirm qualification?

Real Madrid have taken nine points from a possible nine, with two of the games having been away from home. It could not have been a better start for Los Blancos in their favourite competition. So, when can they wrap up qualification mathematically? Well, in the very next round. A draw or a win at home to Braga at the Bernabéu on November 8th will mathematically put Real Madrid into the last 16.

2. Will Rodrygo take as long to score his next goal of the season?

In the 2023–24 season, Rodrygo scored his first goal in just 28 minutes. Then, it took another 871 minutes for him to score his second, which he bagged here with a fair slice of luck. Will that goal give the Brazilian the confidence he needs to kick on from here and to start scoring more frequently? You’d surely hope so.

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