Atletico Madrid are no strangers to disappointment on derby day and so a familiar feeling of regret washed over Diego Simeone and his players as Real Madrid scored a late equaliser to deny their rivals a symbolic victory as La Liga table-toppers.
The post-match inquest will focus on a number of missed chances that could have put the game out of sight before Benzema’s 88th-minute leveller.
One thing the inquest won’t look at, however, is the performance of Kieran Trippier. Along with Marcos Llorente and Jan Oblak, the former Tottenham Hotspur man was the best player on the pitch, with the majority of Atletico Madrid’s play coming down his wing.
Impressive return for Trippier
Real Madrid, not without justification, expected Trippier to be rusty having spent the past two months on the sidelines following a 10-match ban for breaching betting rules. They made a conscious effort to target the England international, sending Benzema out wide to double up on the right wing back as often as possible.
Trippier, however, showed no such signs of rust. In fact, he turned in a performance to underline just how important he is to Atletico Madrid. The likes of Joao Felix and Luis Suarez will receive the majority of plaudits if the capital club are to win the Spanish title this season, but Simeone’s whole system is as dependent on Trippier as any other single player.
Of course, England is currently spoiled for choice when it comes to right back. With Euro 2020 just around the corner, Gareth Southgate will face no greater selection headache than picking just two or three players to play on the right side of his defence. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James, Kyle Walker, Tariq Lamptey and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are all proven at a high level.
What Trippier offers to England
But Trippier offers something different and has taken his career to new heights since making the switch to the Spanish capital from Spurs nearly two years ago. The 30-year-old is one of the most accomplished crossers in Europe at this moment in time, a quality Simeone has made the most of by deploying Trippier as a wing back. He wants the Englishman high up the pitch, where he can do the most damage.
Alexander-Arnold is also an exceptional crosser of the ball, but the 22-year-old has been out of form all season long and is part of a Liverpool defensive unit that has now lost six home games in a row. If Southgate has room in his squad for one right back in this mould, Trippier should be his pick.
Under Simeone, he has refined the vulnerabilities in his game. Trippier has long been revered for his ability as an attack-minded full back, but it was in the defensive side of the game that he could be a liability for both Spurs and England. Simeone, one of the best defensive coaches of his generation, has helped round out the 30-year-old.
Trippier must make Euro 2020 squad
The 3-5-2 system used by Atletico Madrid has undeniably helped Trippier in this regard, giving the Englishman added protection in behind. He doesn’t need to worry so much about being exploited on the counter attack as there is more often than not a centre back covering for him, but nonetheless his defensive instincts have been sharpened.
Southgate might wish to pick Alexander-Arnold, James, Wan-Bissaka or even Lamptey as a sign of his commitment to the future, with all four player significantly younger than Trippier, but if England want to actually win the Euros this summer, they have a right back currently at the peak of his powers in the 30-year-old.
What’s more, Trippier knows what it’s like to reach the latter rounds of a major tournament having played a key role for England at the 2018 World Cup, even scoring in the semi final defeat to Croatia. Southgate’s side has evolved since then, but then so has Trippier.
My picks for the England squad
1. Kieran Trippier
2. Trent Alexander-Arnold
3. Aaron Wan-Bissaka
4. Reece James
5. Kyle Walker
6. Tariq Lamptey