Real Madrid didn’t get the pre-Champions League final victory they were looking for, drawing 0-0 with Real Betis on Friday night in Los Blancos’ final league game of the campaign. Still, this was a match of many talking points. Here comes a look at some pre-match doubts that were solved and three new questions to think about ahead of the final against Liverpool.
1. Who’d win this de facto Super Cup?
Before Luis Rubiales and Gerard Piqué got involved, the Spanish Super Cup used to just be a clash between the LaLiga Santander and Copa del Rey winners on stickly hot midweek summer nights. So, this Matchday 38 game between Real Madrid and Real Betis was a de facto Super Cup. But, with nothing on the line, there was a fraternal feel to this one, with the home crowd also cheering Manuel Pellegrini’s name before the match. They even performed a ‘double pasillo’ before kick-off, with Real Madrid first giving Real Betis a guard of honor for their cup win before Los Verdiblancos made two lines to congratulate the league champions. After those pre-match ceremonies, a match that felt like a friendly played out and there were no goals. It wasn’t a great game, in truth, so it’ll only be remembered for other reasons.
2. Militão Watch: How would he do in his final warm-up?
Éder Militão came into this game as the Real Madrid player under the most scrutiny. Having been playing well below his ceiling for at least a month, doubts about the centre-back gradually and then abruptly crept in. So, how would he do here, in this final match before the Champions League final? Well, he was dominant in the air, which has remained his strong point even through this rough patch. But he was also better in general play. When the Brazilian made a vital challenge to deny Juanmi just before half time, that produced one of the most emphatic rounds of applause from the Bernabéu of the entire night. That will do him the world of good. You have to feel more confident about Militão now than you would have before today’s game.
3. Would Ancelotti treat this as a dress rehearsal for Paris?
Coming into this game, we knew Ancelotti was going to play a strong line-up. He’s a showman and has been saving the necessary rotations for the away matches ever since Real Madrid won the league, playing strong starting XIs at home to give the match-going fans what they’re paying for. So, we knew the main starters would be back, but would it be a full-strength team, just minus the injured David Alaba? Well yes, it was. Swap the Austrian for Nacho and this would be a full ‘Gala XI’. With eight days to recover after this game, it made complete sense to keep these starters match-sharp.
1. Apart from Alaba, who might change in the line-up?
If we assume that Alaba recovers in time and is trusted to slot straight back into the line-up in place of Nacho, was this the exact Champions League final line-up? In Paris, it really will be Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Nacho, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinícius, the exact same as tonight? Or is there a change to come, perhaps Valverde in place of Rodrygo or Camavinga for someone in midfield? Ancelotti has said he already knows his starting line-up for Liverpool, but it seems he’ll keep his cards close to his chest for once and that we won’t know the answer to this question until next Saturday night.
2. Will there be hydration breaks during the Champions League final?
Look, this wasn’t a particularly entertaining game at any point. But, it felt like the hydration breaks in each half didn’t help. They’ve been common practice during warmer weather for a while now, but the disruption still takes some getting used to. So, will there be hydration breaks during the Champions League final? They’re only supposed to happen if the temperature exceeds 32 degrees and it’s a curious one since such pauses could halt momentum for one of Real Madrid or Liverpool, while the chance for a tactical reshuffle could play a role too. There was one in last year’s final in Porto and in the recent Europa League final in Seville, but it’s not clear yet if there will be one in Paris.
3. Was this really the last chance for goodbyes?
There are four Real Madrid players with expiring contracts and it seems Modrić will be the only one kept on. That would make this the last home game for Marcelo, Isco and Gareth Bale. With the Welshman not making the bench because of an injury – surprise, surprise – the suggestion was that he missed out on the chance for a goodbye, like the ones the Brazilian and Spaniard enjoyed when they came on in the second half. But, was that really the last chance for a farewell moment? If Real Madrid go on to win the Champions League next Saturday, Ancelotti’s squad will pay one more visit to the Bernabéu on the Sunday night to present the trophy. It won’t be competitive action, but maybe that’ll be the actual last chance for goodbyes…