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Ceballos, Nacho start in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could lineup against Athletic Club

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Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

Having taken one step in the right direction with their comeback win against Villarreal, Carlo Ancelotti must ensure that his men do not take two steps backwards when they lock horns with Athletic Club at San Mames.

The Galacticos are still reeling under an acute injury crisis with several regular starters ruled out. Aurelien Tchouameni, David Alaba, Lucas Vazquez and Daniel Carvajal remain unavailable for selection, but Luka Modric returns to the squad after being rested for the last game.

A tough schedule lies ahead for Los Blancos and only good form and chemistry can take them through unscathed. Many of Ancelotti’s decisions on Sunday, thus, will depend on what he saw against Villarreal as he looks to sharpen his side.

Madrid Universal brings you an overview of how the Italian manager could play his cards at San Mames when Real Madrid face off against Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic Club de Bilbao.

Starters

Thibaut Courtois has little to feel happy about this season. While he has been top-notch yet again personally, his defence has let him down time and again. The Belgian will continue to start when the men in white take on Athletic Club on Sunday night as he desperately hunts for positives to cling onto.

David Alaba’s unavailability in the squad leaves Ancelotti with no option but to start Antonio Rudiger and Eder Militao in central defence. Luckily for him, the duo are beginning to strike up a good partnership and will hope to keep a clean sheet on the night.

Ferland Mendy is set to start at left-back as he faces the fearsome prospect of locking horns with one of Nico Williams or Inaki Williams. The Spanish duo are two of the league’s most lethal players on their day and promise devastating pace and agility.

Both Lucas Vazquez and Dani Carvajal are unavailable for the game at San Mames, putting Ancelotti in a tough spot like in the previous game. Given that Vinicius Tobias is not in the squad, Nacho Fernandez seems to be the chosen one to play at right-back.

Dani Ceballos dished out a special cameo as a substitute against Villarreal. When the team stared at an uphill battle, he came up clutch with an assist and match-winning goal to take the team to the next round and could deservedly start against Athletic Club.

Eduardo Camavinga is also in contention to start again after a largely solid display vs Villarreal, but Ceballos continuity would not be surprising.

Ancelotti could opt to turn to his veterans again to complete the midfield. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric will look to use their experience against the veteran double pivot of Dani Garcia and Mikel Vesga, who tormented Real Madrid in their last meeting.

Vinicius Jr was one of the biggest talking points ahead of the Villarreal clash. The Brazilian International was seemingly struggling for form after the World Cup but stepped up at La Ceramica to score Real Madrid’s first goal of the night. Still fresh from his revival, he will look to keep up his good rhythm.

Can Vini save Madrid’s season? (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

Karim Benzema was abysmal when Real Madrid needed him the most against Villarreal. The Frenchman contributed very little over 90 minutes and had just one shot and zero dribbles on a night when his team were chasing a two-goal deficit. The Ballon d’Or winner will thus look to be the protagonist tomorrow and look to lace up his goalscoring boots.

The final place in attack sees heavy competition. Federico Valverde, Rodrygo Goes and Marco Asensio all make strong cases to start, but one would expect the latter to get the nod after his solid midweek cameo.

Substitutes

Despite being harsh on Eduardo Camavinga in terms of controlling his minutes and taking him off prematurely, Carlo Ancelotti maintains that the youngster is untouchable at the club. It is clear that the manager values his profile, and will surely give him minutes in the La Liga clash.

Federico Valverde suddenly finds himself in a bearish period after an incredible run of form that saw his stocks break the roof. He will come on in the second half to improve the tempo and inject firepower in the final third.

Rodrygo’s substitution has become a common ritual in Real Madrid games this season, and it is almost taken for granted that the Brazilian features in every game. He, too, will be called upon in the second period.

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Features

Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Sevilla | La Liga GW 26

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Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

As one of the few teams that managed to take a point off Real Madrid in the first half of the season, Rayo Vallecano was seen as a dangerous opponent as Los Blancos prepared for matchday 25 of La Liga.

True to the expectation, the visitors gave Real Madrid a run for their money and managed to salvage a draw once more.

Matchday 26, thus, presents yet another steep challenge for Carlo Ancelotti’s side. The men in white lock horns with Sevilla, one of the few other teams that managed to hold them to a draw in their previous encounter.

It has not been an easy season for Los Nervionenses as they linger in 15th place after 25 games. However, they have shown time and time again that they have resilience and they will trouble the Merengues without a doubt.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Sevilla.

An emotional, yet emotion-less affair

The one headline flooding the news ahead of Real Madrid’s clash against Sevilla this weekend is about Sergio Ramos. The former Real Madrid captain faced Los Blancos earlier this season at Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan and showed that he still had it in him to play at the top level, but tomorrow’s clash will be special for reasons beyond the sporting sense.

The Spanish superstar captained one of the Merengues’ greatest units in history and saw them make their way to back-to-back titles for years. His departure from the club, however, was almost anti-climactic as he left as a free agent in 2021.

Tomorrow night will be the first time the club legend steps foot on the grasses of the Santiago Bernabeu since his departure. A return to the stadium he once called home can only be described as an emotional affair.

Moreover, the club administration have even arranged for a small emotional tribute to the player who took them to great heights in the last decade, amplifying the sense of nostalgia.

Concurrently, however, both Ramos and Real Madrid are fiercely competitive and do not see nostalgia as any reason for sympathy. Once the referee blows the whistle, there will be no love lost between the two parties.

Real Madrid will be forced to go up against the monster they created, while Ramos will be equally motivated to show the management what they lost by passing on him. In either case, the game will be driven by passion and will not be affected one bit by the background story.

Two suspensions, one return

Carvajal out, but Rudiger’s back. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images)

In addition to his long list of injuries, Carlo Ancelotti has a new factor to consider before deploying his starting XI on Sunday night. After all, two players are out through suspension – Dani Carvajal and Eduardo Camavinga.

The Spanish veteran was sent off in Real Madrid’s 1-1 draw against Rayo Vallecano and will be unavailable to start on the night at right-back. Ancelotti will turn towards Lucas Vazquez to cover the void on the night, but it is clear that Carvajal will be missed.

The second player unavailable on the night, Eduardo Camavinga, is once again replaceable, now that Antonio Rudiger is back fit and ready to feature.

The German maestro has missed three weeks of action through injury but has made a comeback. His availability on the night would enable Aurelien Tchouameni to play as the pivot, effectively covering for Camavinga’s absence.

Guler’s moment?

Going up against Sevilla, one of the few teams to have stolen points from Real Madrid this season, Carlo Ancelotti will be without the services of two key attackers.

Jude Bellingham will continue to be unavailable on the night as he recovers from his recent blow. The Englishman has made good progress so far, but it is still sizeably away from a return.

Joselu, meanwhile, was confirmed to be suffering from bone edema and is expected to be out for at least three weeks. The combination of the two absences leaves Ancelotti with only three viable attacking options – Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo Goes, and Brahim Diaz.

The Spanish-Moroccan star is expected to slot into Bellingham’s position, for it is his niche on the field while the two Brazilians will start up front as the two forwards. As revealed yesterday, the situation also opens the door for Arda Guler.

Ancelotti sees Guler as a player capable of making a difference as a forward and will thus count on him more often in the coming days. With all forward options likely to start, the Turkish phenom could begin to enjoy more prominence as a substitute tomorrow against Sevilla.

There have been talks around a possible loan involving Guler in recent weeks, and the coming games could just be his best bet to prove his worth and establish his presence under the manager.

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