Real Madrid may have registered five wins out of five to start the season, including one in the Champions League, but their performances have been far from convincing.
They were almost beat by UD Almeria on opening day, and Real Betis could have taken a point or three against them on any other day.
To add to Carlo Ancelotti’s trouble, two key players in Eder Militao and Karim Benzema have picked up injuries that will rule them out at least for another week. Neither of the two is part of the squad list that will take on RCD Mallorca tomorrow.
That said, Los Blancos still have that ‘inevitable aura surrounding them. We saw it in the UEFA Champions League last season, and a few times in the opening five games of the campaign already.
They seem to find ways back into the game despite looking out and done. Tomorrow, we expect Ancelotti to rotate the personnel heavily, but the lionheart of Madrid will remain in place.
Thibaut Courtois picked up a minor knee injury earlier this week, confirmed Ancelotti during his pre-game press conference. However, he also assured the media that the Belgian would definitely start tomorrow.
The Italian gaffer also confirmed that they will not look to change the system despite Benzema’s absence, which, presumably, means that he will continue with a back-four.
Antonio Rudiger should replace Militao as the first screen ahead of Courtois. We expect David Alba to retain his spot in the heart of the defence, partnering the German giant.
Daniel Carvajal participated for the full 90 against Celtic, and therefore, is in line to be rested. Lucas Vazquez will likely take over his role as the right-back, with Odriozola still absent.
Nacho is one of the candidates to start tomorrow, especially at left-back, but it is likelier that Ancelotti sticks with Ferlan Mendy so as to not disrupt the chemistry too much.
The centre of the park will likely be handed a couple of switches as well. Aurelien Tchouameni is the only natural pivot present in the Real Madrid squad and should retain his spot as the anchor of the midfield trident.
He will be flanked by one midfield on either side. Ancelotti hinted at a possible start for Daniel Ceballos tomorrow, and in line with the same, we predict him to take up one of the available central midfield positions.
With one eye on the midweek clash against RB Leipzig, it is an almost unsaid protocol for big teams to rest veterans. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric ran the show against Celtic but could start from the bench tomorrow.
Consequently, the final available spot should go to Eduardo Camavinga. The Frenchman is yet to see a continuous run of minutes since his arrival in the Spanish capital, but tomorrow is a chance for him to win over the coaching staff.
With captain Karima Benzema out, Eden Hazard gets the nod to start in his place as the false 9. The Belgian looked sharp on Tuesday, scoring his first official goal for Madrid since January 2022.
Vinicius Jr has been playing regularly and needs to get some time on the bench, but that will likely not happen anytime soon. He will be the protagonist of the attack in Benzema’s absence tomorrow, starting as the left-winger.
The final place in the starting lineup should go to Rodrygo. The Brazilian has more than earned his place at this point, scoring and assisting one goal each in three appearances this season.
Vinicius · Hazard · Rodrygo
Ceballos · Tchouameni · Camavinga
Mendy · Alaba · Rudiger · Vazquez
Benzema’s injury gives Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz chances to be included in the team more often. The duo have barely received game time this season, but are in line to come off the bench tomorrow.
Federico Valverde‘s energy will be key for Madrid, in any case, tomorrow, along with the calm of Toni Kroos. Tchouameni needs some long-overdue rest, and one of these two could come on to replace him.
Nacho is one of the leading candidates to be substituted on, likely replacing one of Mendy or Alaba, depending on what Madrid need in the game.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Osasuna
After a two-week hiatus from club football, Real Madrid return to action on Sunday night in a home game against Osasuna. The league leaders have been unstoppable so far this season, and the objective at the Bernabeu will be to keep their fine form going.
Jagoba Arrasate’s side have enjoyed a positive start to the season with four wins in six games so far. The Pamplona-based side sit sixth in the league standings ahead of the likes of Villarreal and Atletico Madrid.
Carlo Ancelotti will make several changes in his starting lineup on the night – some forced and some out of choice. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Los Blancos’ weekend clash.
1. Time to kick in the nitros
Real Madrid have been flawless this season and are the only club in the European top-flight to have not dropped a single point. While their start to the season has been nothing short of a fairytale, one wonders how long they can keep the magical streak going.
The month of October brings with it one of the most hectic schedules the club has seen in recent years. Over the next 30 days, Los Blancos play nine games across all competitions. In short, the equation boils down to a game every three days.
To come out on top in all nine games will require a superhuman effort from the Real Madrid players, but one knows well that the squad is capable of it. The team are in a strong headspace, and injecting the right amount of fuel at this point could propel their throttle and see them weather the storm.
A job well begun is half done, and Carlo Ancelotti will hope that his men can make a strong start to the month on Sunday night.
2. Coping without Modric
The FIFA International break has been cruel to clubs across the globe, with several key players returning injured and facing several weeks on the sidelines. The story for Real Madrid is no different.
Luka Modric played every minute of Croatia’s two friendlies in the last two weeks and even scored a goal in their 3-1 win over Austria. However, he suffered an injury to his hip and faces 8-10 days on the sidelines.
The veteran, at 37 years of age, has arguably been Real Madrid’s best player this season. In eight games, he has scored two goals and provided one assist for Los Blancos and continues to show the world why he is one of the best the game has seen.
Modric is expected to return for the Clasico in two weeks. However, one cannot help but wonder how Ancelotti compensates for such a big void.
It has been reported that the manager sees Dani Ceballos as the ideal man for the job. The 26-year-old impressed when given the start against Mallorca earlier this season, making four key passes and bagging one assist. Now, he could have his moment and a chance to prove his worth to the manager.
In Modric’s absence, Ceballos could start alongside Aurelien Tchouameni and Toni Kroos in the middle of the park. With Eduardo Camavinga quickly climbing up the pecking order, the 26-year-old must make the most of his chance on Sunday to secure a place in the coming games.
3. The return of the gladiator
After a slow start to the season, Karim Benzema bounced back with a brace against Espanyol on Matchday three. Just when it seemed like he had found his stride, however, he suffered a thigh injury and was ruled out for close to three weeks.
While the team found alternate sources of goals in his absence, it was clear that Los Blancos lacked a dominant presence in the box in recent weeks. With Benzema’s recovery close to complete, all eyes will be on him to see if he can find his feet again.
In his pre-match press conference, Ancelotti confirmed that the French international would start on Sunday though it is unlikely that he will play all 90 minutes. Nevertheless, this comes as a big relief to Real Madrid, given that they have no natural replacement for the centre-forward.
The captain will look to make a statement on his return on Sunday and will likely be deployed alongside Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo.