Real Madrid secured a hard-fought first leg win in the last 16 of the Champions League against RB Leipzig at the Red Bull Arena on Tuesday night as Brahim Díaz scored the only goal of the game to give the visitors a crucial victory.

Three answers

1. How would Real Madrid adapt without Jude Bellingham?

Simple – they’d bring in Brahim Díaz. The Spaniard is not a like for like replacement for Bellingham, but has been operating in the number 10 role behind Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo Goes with great results to date this season. His presences provides the connection that Bellingham does, while he also offers more flexibility to move into wide areas and rotate with the Brazilian pair to add some unpredictability to Los Blancos’ game. Fede Valverde was able to move forwards from a deeper role and progress both in and out of possession. Díaz was involved throughout and then scored a magnificent goal, and with 1.47 total xG and 15 shots, it doesn’t seem that Bellingham was too sorely missed just yet. That said, Rodrygo’s first-half miss on the counter did have the feeling of a chance that Bellingham might have buried.

2. Would Real Madrid’s impressive run against German opposition continue?

Real Madrid had only lost one of their last 15 games against German teams, that one being against RB Leipzig at the Red Bull Arena in a 3-2 loss in the group stage of last season’s tournament. Other than that, they had recorded 10 wins and four draws. To do so, Real Madrid would hope to stop a RB Leipzig side who have scored in their last 16 home games in the competition, but who have conceded in their last 13 matches at home in European competition too. With the 1-0 win here, Real Madrid extend that run to 16 and break Leipzig’s run of clean sheets and scoring at home. Revenge for that defeat last year, the blotch on the Spanish team’s German record, is sweet.

3. Would Nacho be an improvement on Dani Carvajal in defence?

The return of Nacho meant that he would play in the central defensive role alongside Aurelién Tchouameni. However, it sadly highlighted just how worrying the captain’s form has been this season. Leipzig looked to exploit the half spaces between Nacho and Ferland Mendy and got in their time and time again, with Eduardo Camavinga required to help reduce Dani Olmo’s impact on the game. Where Carvajal’s presence had brought leadership and tranquility, Nacho seemed to be more frequently caught out of position than Carlo Ancelotti would have been comfortable with. Add in his discomfort with playing against a high press, and this was a tough night for the man with the armband on his return to the team. Equally, it also raised questions over whether Carvajal is at his best at right-back. He looked exposed at times, his crunching tackle diving in and fortunate not to get at least a yellow card showed that.

Three questions

1. Was it the right call to disallow Benjamin Šeško’s early goal?

With only two minutes on the clock, Real Madrid got a helping hand from the assistant referee and VAR as Benjamin Šeško had a headed goal ruled out for offside in what was a very unclear and controversial decision. The decision does appear, perhaps questionably for Leipzig fans, to be the right one. Benjamin Henrichs found himself in an offside position as the ball came back in, and impeded Andriy Lunin from stepping backwards towards his goal. In reality, it seems almost impossible that Lunin would have been able to get back and stop Šeško’s header, but that is not a relevant factor in the laws of the game. Any direct interference with an opposition player from an offside position would be enough to enable an offside call to be awarded. In this case, the on-field decision was to award offside, and it was checked and approved by VAR.

2. Is Brahim Díaz too good to be a reserve player?

Few Madridistas would put Brahim Díaz in their strongest line-up, but there can be little denying the incredible quality of the attacker after this performance. He led the match in dribbles completed (seven), duels won (10), chances created (four) and scored the match-winning goal with an inspired piece of skill and a magnificent finish. It doesn’t get much better than that from a player looking to prove a point. His injury, seemingly a muscle strain, which forced him off will now be the biggest concern as Carlo Ancelotti will want him fit for the next few weeks, particularly with Jude Bellingham unavailable and a gap to fill in the middle of the Real Madrid attack.

3. What does this mean for the second leg?

There is very much still plenty to play for in the return future at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in March. With only a one-goal lead, Carlo Ancelotti won’t be willing to rest too many of his key players for the return fixture. Fortunately, the fixture list has been kind and ties against Valencia and Celta Vigo either side of the second leg should be winnable. Balancing the squad until that point may be tough, but it’s an exercise that Ancelotti is well-versed in. What’s clear is that Real Madrid are on the front foot at the half-way point of this two-legged tie.

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