Real Madrid were comfortable as they saw off a brave Athletic Club side who were certainly no pushovers despite the 2-0 scoreline at a purple-tinted Estadio Santiago Bernabéu on Sunday night. Rodrygo Goes ended his goal drought to score both goals for the home team and maintain Real Madrid’s eight-point lead at the top of LALIGA against a side who came into this game having only lost twice since October.

Three answers

1. How would Real Madrid get on without Vinícius Júnior?

This game was always going to be an incredibly tricky one for Real Madrid’s offensive approach as Athletic had the second-best defensive record in LALIGA behind Real Madrid, and had only conceded 12 goals in 14 away games. It was no surprise then that Carlo Ancelotti didn’t hold back with his offensive weapons as Brahim Díaz replaced Vinícius Júnior directly, opting not to engage in the kind of aerial physical battle that Joselu can provide and that Athletic’s defence feel more than comfortable with. In a game of few chances, it was another Brazilian, Rodrygo Goes, who produced the moment of magic with an impressive strike from distance for his first goal for the club since February and was just as clinical to add a second on the break. Sure, Vini might have opened up some more spaces, but with or without him, Athletic would always provide a very difficult opponent to break down.

2. How much would Ernesto Valverde rotate?

Athletic Club’s next game is the Copa del Rey final against Mallorca and as such, it was logical that the former Barcelona coach would look to rotate. The Basque side made a total of five changes to the line-up that beat Alavés before the international break, though some saw recalls for regulars such as Oihan Sancet, while others included an enforced change as an injured Nico Williams was replaced by Álex Berenguer. Most notably, in goal Spain’s number one Unai Simón was left on the bench to give 23-year-old Julen Agirrezabala his first LALIGA appearance of the season.

3. Would we see Éder Militão for the first time since August?

For the first time since his ACL injury against the same opposition back in August, Éder Militão was in Real Madrid’s matchday squad. Pre-match, Ancelotti hinted that he could have minutes, saying, “maybe not, maybe yes. I’m not saying it’s 50%, it could be 70% no and 30% yes. We have to see it game by game. It may be that tomorrow he will be given minutes and we have time until the 9th April to improve his condition. The knee is fine, all he needs is football, getting used to playing on a big field again and with his teammates. He has recovered very well.” In the end, there would be only a very brief, symbolic, sighting of the Brazilian for the final minutes of injury time, though he did go through some rigorous warm-up exercises and looked to be chomping at the bit to return in place of either Antonio Rüdiger or, more likely, captain Nacho Fernández.

Three questions

1. Why were Athletic in white and Real Madrid in purple?

Anyone tuning into this game on television may have been left very confused as they saw the home crowd cheering on a team in purple against a side in all white. That was because Real Madrid were donning a new Y-3 shirt from Adidas. Available for only $225 on the club’s website, it’s described as “a fusion of elegance and tradition” which “continues the club’s collaboration with Y-3” with another limited edition jersey to follow the previous black effort. With Real Madrid wearing purple, and testing out the lighting of the shut roof at the Bernabéu, Athletic opted to wear their all white away kit. It was an unusual sight, and one that took some getting used to for those at the Bernabéu, even for the minority who visited the club store to splash out on the new jersey.

2. Is Rodrygo back?

We all know that Rodrygo’s form tends to come in waves, goalless streaks are followed by a non-stop flow of strikes, and very few people at the Bernabéu on Sunday night would have guessed that the Brazilian had not hit the back of the net in a Real Madrid shirt since February. Following on from his chip over Unai Simón for Brazil at the Bernabéu in the international break, his confidence seemed to be back and his finishing was on point. Gone was any hesitancy or doubt in his game, with his first goal from distance showing his confidence to hit the ball from so far out, while in the second period he carried the ball on the counter and showed incredible composure to cut back to the near post and add a second for his third brace of the season. In doing so, he matched his goal return across the last 14 games in LALIGA in just one night. If he’s finding form now, there’s never been a better time to do so.

3. Will Toni Kroos ever age?

If one performance stood out, other than the goal-getter in attack, it was the veteran German midfielder Toni Kroos who showed that returning to international duty with Germany would not have any consequential impact on his shape for Real Madrid. Having played 179 minutes against elite opposition in France and The Netherlands at 34 years of age and after coming out of international retirement, it was reasonable to have doubts. Despite any concerns, the veteran produced the kind of all-action display that has made Real Madrid so keen to tie down his future beyond this summer. Playing 81 minutes, he completed 92% of his 77 passes, creating one chance, won both of his tackles and six of eight duels. With tackling akin to Eduardo Camavinga’s sprawling energy and distribution like only he can provide, it was an imperious display once again from Kroos.

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