It is a special night in the Spanish capital tomorrow as Atletico Madrid make the trip to the centre of the city. It is, indeed, the Madrid derby. In the Copa del Rey, no less.
Both teams are coming off tough games in the round of 16, with Real Madrid coming back from 2-0 down to win 2-3 against Villarreal, and Atletico escaping an upset vs Levante courtesy of two second-half goals.
The last clash between the Madrid giants ended 1-2 in favour of Carlo Ancelotti, who took to the media as part of his pre-game press conference.
On the game: “Tomorrow’s game will be very special. A derby is always special. We are happy and can’t wait to play at the Santiago Bernabéu again after so long.”
On Luka Modric and Toni Kroos: “Modric and Kroos? They understand very well their role and what I ask them. They know there’s a lot of quality inside this squad. It’s a moment of transition. I talked to them about this at the start of the season.”
“Modrić and Kroos can play together, obviously. I am sure about that and I have no doubt they will still be important.”
“Modrić and Kroos have contributed a lot and will continue to contribute. I have no doubt with them. Of course they’ll still play together. Nothing has changed.”
On rotations: “Rotations are key for success. All the players must stay motivated.”
On Federico Valverde: “Valverde is not at his top form after the World Cup. We are waiting for him to recover.”
On Marco Asensio and Dani Ceballos: “Would it be fair to leave Ceballos and Asensio on the bench tomorrow? No but we need to always rotate in this part of the season. I’ll use the best XI tomorrow.”
On injuries: “Alaba will play tomorrow. Tchouaméni, Hazard, Carvajal and Lucas are out.”
On Nacho: “Nacho? He can play everywhere and he always does it very well. Of course he prefers to play as CB and I know it. That’s why he will start as right-back tomorrow (laughs).”
On January transfers: “The squad is closed until June. No movements will happen.”
On Tchouameni: “Tchouameni will be available for Sunday’s match.”
“Tchouameni is not comfortable if he plays with another DM in a midfield 3, Camavinga is better under that aspect.”
“A double pivot of Camavinga and Tchouameni? It could be an idea for the future.”
On Brazil rumours: “Rumours of coaching Brazil? No, there’s nothing. I would tell you.”
On Camavinga: “Camavinga was spectacular vs Athletic Club. He amazed me, especially under the defensive aspect.”
On Fran Garcia: “Fran Garcia? He came out of our youth academy and we are evaluating him, but we won’t make decisions until the end of the season.”
Source: Real Madrid TV
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.