Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid are in high spirits after the dramatic 1-2 win against Barcelona last weekend. They have now increased the lead between them and their rivals to four points heading into the 12th gameweek of the league season.
Both teams now face another uphill task as Barcelona will take on the high-flying Real Sociedad today, while Real Madrid host Rayo Vallecano tomorrow.
Francisco Rodriguez’s Vallecano side are currently 8th in the table, and have lost only two of their opening 11 games of the season. They are, by no means of the margin, minnows, and will be a handful for Real Madrid.
In fact, the last five meetings between these two sides suggest that Vallecano have almost managed to go toe-for-toe against Madrid despite winning only one of those games.
They have scored five goals across the last five matchups, while conceding no more than eight.
Ancelotti’s Madrid got an entire week to rest, and he will not be too cautious while selecting his starting lineup for this game.
Defence: Fran Garcia replaced Ferland Mendy
Kepa Arrizabalaga has done rather well to cover for the injured Thibaut Courtois, who has already missed the entire season so far due to an ACL tear. The Spaniard has no competition currently, and will start in goal.
There have been some eyebrows raised over David Alaba‘s form, but the Austrian is expected to retain his spot as one of the central defenders, while Antonio Rudiger starts alongside him.
Ferland Mendy was gifted a starting spot against Barcelona at the left-back position, but the Frenchman did not make enough of it, and was once again substituted out due to injury in the second half.
With him out, Madrid Universal expect Fran Garcia to take his place as the left-back, while Daniel Carvajal will continue as the right-back.
Midfield: Camavinga replaces Tchouameni
With Aurelien Tchouameni out for almost three months, we expect Eduardo Camavinga to get the nod as the no. 6 in this side. Toni Kroos is in contention to start in that role as well, but will likely start as an interior.
Federico Valverde‘s spot is barely in danger. The Uruguayan continues to be one of the best performers for Madrid this season, and is broadening his skill set slowly but surely, and is now among the most complete midfielders in the league. He will start on the ride side of the midfield.
The man of the moment, Kopa Award winner, and soon to be the new Golden Boy, Jude Bellingham will round off the midfield on the tip of the quartet. He is unsurprisingly the Pichichi award leader right now, and will look to add to his tally tomorrow.
Attack: Joselu starts
It has been well documented that Joselu’s presence in the team improves Bellingham’s output. Not to forget, the Spaniard’s second-half sub significantly improved Madrid’s attacking balance.
We expect Joselu to get the nod over Rodrygo in two-man attack up top, while Vinicius Jr retains his spot after a disappointing show against Barcelona.
Big news for Madrid as Arda Guler has finally returned from injury, and is part of the squad list for the game. The Turkish international will likely make his debut tomorrow in the second half.
Meanwhile, Ancelotti will almost definitely rely on Rodrygo, i.e. if he does not start in the first place already. The Brazilian will replace one of the attackers up top in this setup.
Luka Modric was once again the difference maker against Barcelona as a super-sub, and will get another chance to prove his worth off the bench.
Lucas Vazquez and Brahim Diaz are also in contention to get some minutes in the second half, especially if Madrid are in control of the game.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli | UEFA Champions League
Fresh off their 3-0 win against Cadiz at the weekend, Real Madrid return to the field late on Wednesday night to take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A lot has changed since the two teams last met. Napoli sacked Rudi Garcia not so long ago and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new manager. The Italian got off to a great start in the form of a 2-1 win over Atalanta in his first game in the position.
Yet, he will face his first big test in the form of Real Madrid later tomorrow. The Naples-based side will have a lot to prove to their manager and the fans on the night, but it is clear that the Merengues will not treat the fixture lightly either.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli.
The headlining clash
The UEFA Champions League leaves fans spoilt for choice, for it offers the highest quality of football between some of the world’s best teams on a regular basis. The headlining fixtures begin as early as the group stages and only grow in promise as the season progresses.
When Real Madrid were drawn into Group C in this year’s UCL, all eyes were on the team that would take the next highest-seeded spot. It was eventually Napoli that made the cut, making the Spanish-Italian clash the group’s most-awaited game.
Since then, the two teams have already faced off once at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Matchday two of the competition. The clash was evenly balanced for the most part, but Jude Bellingham’s masterclass enabled a narrow 3-2 Real Madrid win.
Close to two months on, the two European giants face off once more, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot help but call the upcoming clash the title clash of the matchday, especially considering the two team’s recent history and what rides on the result.
Real Madrid’s place in the Round of 16 was confirmed after their win over SC Braga in the last matchday. Napoli, however, are yet to secure such confirmation and a defeat tomorrow could potentially reduce their gap over Braga to one point.
Napoli thus need the win to maintain security over their qualification, while Real Madrid hope to cement their place as group leaders with a win. With both teams having a lot riding on the result, the game will have no dearth of life on the night.
Carlo Ancelotti spent many a day in the recent international break plotting means to overcome his midfield crisis. After all, he was without the services of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga had also suffered a gruesome injury on national team duty.
The manager thus deployed his best midfield quartet for the clash against Cadiz, hoping to improve the harmony between the four stars. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham all started but the situation got ugly after the 38-year-old walked off injured in the second half.
Ancelotti thus now faces a bottleneck in midfield. Modric has been excluded from the squad after his latest injury, leaving the manager with just four options from the first-team in midfield. Needless to say, all four players are expected to start in Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond formation on the night.
Bellingham will be deployed as the attacking midfielder while Kroos is likely to play as the pivot. The two interiors will be Dani Ceballos and Valverde, the former of whom has not started a single game all season.
The situation in midfield is thus grim, for the manager can not afford any further injuries in the department.
The man in form
The beginning of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 campaign was all about Jude Bellingham. The Englishman could not stop scoring goals for fun across all competitions and single-handedly won games even in situations where all hope seemed lost.
Rodrygo has stolen the limelight from the English protege in recent weeks, and his resurgence could not come at a better time for Ancelotti. After all, the Brazilian was enduring one of his worst-ever starts to a season but managed to find his footing exactly after Bellingham suffered the blow to his shoulder.
The 22-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in Real Madrid’s recent games. His purple patch began against Braga when he scored once and assisted once to give Los Blancos three critical points.
In the team’s subsequent clash against Valencia, Rodrygo stole the show. In 90 minutes against Los Che, the youngster scored two goals and provided as many assists in the team’s 5-1 win. He added another two goals and an assist to his tally in Real Madrid’s most recent clash against Cadiz.
Needless to say, the spotlight will shine brightly on Rodrygo in tomorrow’s game. As the team’s most in-form player, the onus will be on him to find the required breakthroughs on the night and lead the attack from the front in Vinicius Jr.’s absence.