Real Madrid will be aiming to stay in touch with surprise La Liga leaders Girona as they get set to take on Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday night.
Los Blancos fell two points behind Girona after their goalless draw against Rayo Vallecano last weekend. The Merengues did bounce to winning ways against SC Braga in midweek in the UEFA Champions League this past Wednesday.
However, Real Madrid could find themselves five points off Girona who play Rayo on Saturday afternoon, and as such, cannot afford a slip-up against Valencia.
Ahead of the match, manager Carlo Ancelotti appeared in front of the media for his customary press conference and went on to discuss several matters.
On facing Valencia, Vinicius, and Bellingham’s fitness
Looking at the game against Valencia and the challenges they might present, the Real Madrid boss said:
“We have to keep up the good dynamic we are having. I like the way Valencia play. They are a dynamic team and very well organised. We have to play the game very well to get points.”
Speaking about the team’s performances so far, he added: “In some moments we had a very good level. What you try to find throughout the season is consistency in doing things. We have not been consistent at times, but so far I am quite satisfied with the team. We have to have continuity in everything we do.”
The last time Real Madrid faced Valencia last season, things got out of hand as Vinicius Jr. was targeted by racist insults at the Mestalla.
Naturally, there could be some tension leading into tomorrow’s game, and Ancelotti was asked if he had spoken to the Brazilian about the situation.
“We haven’t talked about this. Valencia is a good team, a team with intensity. That’s the only thing we’ve talked about,” Ancelotti said.
There is some air of uncertainty surrounding the fitness of Jude Bellingham who suffered from a dislocated shoulder against Rayo and was an unused substitute vs Braga.
Providing an update, Ancelotti said: “The player says he is comfortable. He trained normally today. He is available. If nothing unusual happens in the last few hours, I think he will play.”
On Arda Guler’s setback
Arda Guler has not trained with the group in the last two sessions which sparked rumours of a possible setback in his recovery. Confirming a fresh injury for the teenager, Ancelotti said:
“Unfortunately it has happened before the Braga game. It seemed like nothing, but it’s still bothering him. It’s not a serious thing. The player is depressed because he wants to play. It’s a small setback, it’s not a relapse of the old injury and we have the whole break to get him back better.”
This is Guler’s third injury setback since arriving at Real Madrid during the summer transfer window. On being asked how it affects the player and the club’s plans for him, the manager replied:
“The first injury was a meniscus tear that he had last year. He was operated on and, as often happens, it changes your position with the other leg and it can happen that during recovery you can have muscular problems. That’s what happened to him.
“His future is beautiful, beautiful. He is a very talented player. I can understand that the player is disappointed, but it’s just a muscular problem. I have personal experience that I stopped for two years when I was 21 and then I came back.
“Guler’s future is not in doubt. It’s just a moment and I hope he can recover after the break.”
When asked what message he transmits to the youngster in moments like this, the manager said: “Calmness and tranquillity. After that, it’s quite normal for a player to be upset. He is new here, he wants to contribute to the team.
“It’s always difficult for an injured player to cope with the moment because he see his teammates training and playing. His sadness is quite normal, but we give him all the love in the world. We don’t rush him. His future is here.”
On renewals, formation, and goalkeeping options
Over the past two weeks, Real Madrid have confirmed four new contract extensions, with Federico Valverde being the latest to ink a new deal.
When asked if Ancelotti was envious of the situation, given his own contract expires next summer, he replied:
“Envious of what? No. Not at all. It’s the time to do this. The future of this club is already written with these players. They renew because they are here and they like it very much.”
When asked about how it is to work with players like Valverde, Ancelotti stated that he feels lucky to work with a crop of footballers like the ones he has at his disposal.
“I am lucky to work with players who have extraordinary characteristics. I am proud to coach Real Madrid. If the young players progress well, it’s good for the club and for them. I’m left with the idea that these players are progressing, because they are very good,” he said.
Discussing the club’s tactics and formation, Ancelotti said: “We have to open a debate about the system. Because defensively we have changed it, we defended with two lines of four. The diamond is no longer clear in defence.
“It has given us good results. Defining a system with the ball is very complicated: it depends on where Rodrygo plays, where Bellingham plays. Without the ball it’s clear: it’s a 4-4-2.”
With Kepa Arrizabalaga out injured for a couple of weeks at least, Real Madrid will now reinstate Andriy Lunin as the first-choice goalkeeper.
When asked about the backup options in the department, Ancelotti replied: “Tomorrow Fran [Gonzalez] will be the second goalkeeper. We have a lot of confidence in him. Cañizares is also doing well for Castilla.”
On the back of Lunin’s good display against Braga, Ancelotti was asked if there will again be a debate for the starting goalkeeper’s spot. In response, he said:
“There is always a debate. When Kepa has played he has done very well and when Lunin has been used he has done very well. Everyone can have a good moment or a less good moment and then the replacement has to be ready.”
Real Madrid summer signing set to return to training soon – report
Real Madrid’s main goal heading into the summer transfer window was to wrap up the signing of Jude Bellingham amid massive interest from Premier League giants such as Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea.
Pep Guardiola’s City, especially, were ready to match and increase any salary Madrid offered, and were going strongly into the bidding war.
Eventually, Bellingham decided to join Madrid after they reached an agreement with Borussia Dortmund for €3 million.
However, following this, los blancos had to improvise a fair bit as Karim Benzema decided to leave the club to join Al-Ittihad on a free transfer. They were expecting him to continue for another season, at least, and it stumped their plans in the market.
In the next few weeks, Madrid chased forwards, and ended up signing Joselu, Brahim Diaz, and a certain Arda Guler, who was close to Barcelona before eventually ending up at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Unfortunately for Madrid, he is yet to play a single minute for the club after picking up a serious injury in pre-season. Despite being on the bench for a couple of games, Guler suffered a relapse in training, and was sidelined again.
Now, reports from Yagiz Sabuncuoglu say that the Turkish international is close to returning to team training.
Guler has slowly, but surely, been recovering from his injury, and could take to the pitch for his first minutes with the club in the next few weeks as Madrid look for solutions after a month full of injuries.
With Vinicius Jr, Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelien Tchouameni, Eder Militao, and Thibaut Courtois all out until early 2024, Madrid have relied on Castilla for reinforcements, but could do with Guler’s services in their forward line.
That said, Carlo Ancelotti and co. are expected to be extremely cautious when it comes to the Turkish international. The slightest spell of poor man-management here could make or break the youngster’s career.