Real Madrid will be aiming to extend their 100 percent record in the 2022/23 La Liga when they face off against Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday afternoon.
The Merengues have won three in three so far, beating UD Almeria, Celta Vigo and RCD Espanyol, and are sitting at the top of the La Liga table.
And, manager Carlo Ancelotti will hope that his team carry the momentum forward and pick up another victory over Manuel Pellegrini’s side.
Ahead of the game, the Italian tactician attended the press conference (h/t MARCA) during which he spoke about several topics, including the roles that some exit-linked stars like Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard would play now that the transfer window is closed.
It will be Real Madrid’s first home game of the new La Liga campaign, and Ancelotti welcomed the opportunity to play in front of their own supporters again, saying:
“Good feelings. We have had good times at the Bernabéu last year and we hope it is the same this season. It is a difficult game against an opponent who are going to compete. Let’s see if it works out for us.”
Talking about the favourites tag stamped on Real Madrid, he said: “We are favourites because of what we did last year. It will be a more competitive La Liga and the same in the Champions League.
“There is no favourite. For our part, we have fewer doubts in this period than last year. The transfer market is over, we have a very good squad. We are going to compete and fight.”
Speaking of the situation of Eden Hazard, Ancelotti said: “He is working well and will have a more important role than last year. After these three games, you can’t make an evaluation.”
On the adaptation required in midfield after Casemiro’s departure, Ancelotti insisted that Aurelien Tchouameni is best suited to the role, but backed other players to fill the void left by the Brazilian’s departure.
“By characteristics, Tchouameni is the most suitable player for that position, but Camavinga has played there and Kroos is very reliable.
“It will depend on how we play the games. Kroos is very clean in the passes. If the match is less controlled we will need energy and there are Camavinga and Tchouameni.
Further praising the new signing, the manager added: “Tchouameni is an extraordinary signing. He is young and has to learn. We have the youth, the energy, the intelligence and the positioning. The problem is to choose the three that will start the game.”
Marco Asensio had been heavily linked with an exit all summer long but has ended up staying put. And Ancelotti insisted that the Spaniard will have a role to play in the team.
“Last year he helped us and this year it is going to be the same. He is going to have his chances and he is going to deliver,” he said.
Ceballos was another player who had been tipped to leave, but opted to stay at the Bernabeu. And the manager expects the midfielder to play an important part in the team’s journey this term.
“Ceballos knows that he is going to play an important role because of his quality and that is why he has decided to stay. We like him as a player because he completes a very good midfield with his characteristics,” he said.
The manager also insisted that club veterans like Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Nacho will be given short-term contracts as long as they wish to continue as Real Madrid players.
“Their future is very clear. If they want to stay they will stay here until the end of their career. Same for Kroos and Nacho. This is what the club wants.”
Ancelotti also spoke about the difference between the Premier League and La Liga, following the former’s enormous spending in the summer window.
“The Premier League has come a long way with the sale of television rights, it has beaten the other Leagues, there is a good atmosphere, without violence, the atmosphere is very good, with a fully functional stadium.
“They have an advantage and the objective of the others has to be to improve these aspects above all.”
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia
For all the institutional and sporting catastrophes Valencia suffer from, they put up a resilient show against Real Madrid last month and held them to a draw in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.
Having fired Gennaro Gattuso less than 48 hours ago, Los Che will be under the command of an interim coach at Santiago Bernabeu in the hope of repeating their feat from Saudi Arabia.
After all, they are struggling this season with just 20 points in 18 league appearances.
Valencia may not be the top team it used to be a couple of seasons ago, but there is a fighting spirit to the squad that makes them special.
As Real Madrid looks to make amends for their dropped points against La Real, some important considerations cross the manager’s mind regarding the clash against Los Che.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.
1. More names at Ancelotti’s disposal
Real Madrid’s long injury list has been a thorn in Carlo Ancelotti’s feet for a long time now. While the manager has had close to five players unavailable through fitness concerns, two names were considered irreplaceable.
Daniel Carvajal is the first on that list. The Spanish International’s presence gave the club hope after Lucas Vazquez’s injury last month, but almost as if planned, the 30-year-old immediately suffered a blow in training and was forced to sit out.
For four games, Ancelotti was thus forced to field Nacho Fernandez as his right-back. The centre-back did a good job at covering out of position, however, will be pushed back to the bench on Thursday as Los Blancos celebrate the return of Carvajal.
The defender is not the only one making his way back, as Aurelien Tchouameni also received the medical all-clear earlier this week.
The French pivot hobbled off an hour into Real Madrid’s league clash against Villarreal in the first week of January and has been sidelined for close to a month.
His absence pushed his coach to try numerous permutations in midfield, but it was finally Eduardo Camavinga who stamped his authority on the position.
With Tchouameni back roaring, his place in the starting lineup seems to be written in stone. One can expect the Frenchman to be deployed alongside Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos for his return to action on Thursday.
2. Concern shifts from right to left-back
The Merengues will finally have a natural right-back available to play against Valencia midweek. However, that does not signal the end of the Italian tactician’s trouble-riddles period.
Just when one full-back position returned to a state of normalcy, Real Madrid now have a crisis at left-back.
Ferland Mendy picked up a thigh injury earlier this week and will miss the team’s next two months of action at least. To say that this is a big blow to the club’s plans would be an understatement, for Mendy was the only natural left-back available in the squad.
David Alaba would appear to be the best-placed alternative, but the Austrian is ruled out through injury himself. Placed at a lack of options, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference earlier today that Eduardo Camavinga would play there against Valencia.
The youngster has played in the defensive position earlier but will face the heat going up against Jose Luis Gaya at Santiago Bernabeu.
Given that Valencia’s right flank put up a memorable display when the two teams met last month, one can be certain that Camavinga’s performance can make or break Real Madrid’s night.
3. No margin for error
Less than halfway through the league season, Los Blancos already find themselves five points behind Barcelona. The wide gap is not a consequence of the defending champions’ poor form but the sheer consistency of Xavi Hernandez’s men, who cannot stop winning.
Having won the Supercopa de Espana last month, the Catalans are currently riding high on confidence. With their season heading from strength to strength, Real Madrid must hold on and wait for the right opportunity to topple the tables.
The Galacticos‘ draw against Real Sociedad added two points to the gap between the top two sides last week. At this stage, Ancelotti’s men cannot afford any further slip-ups for a larger gap would be too much for the men in white to compensate.
Every game henceforth will be a final for Real Madrid in La Liga. Three points are the bare minimum the club can walk away with from any fixture, and that mission will start from their game against Valencia.