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Early final, Tchouameni-Nacho, Bernabeu – Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Manchester City

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Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid seldom, if ever, boast of a negative record in terms of results. Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, on that front, have been their nemeses respectively.

The Italian tactician has won only thrice against the Spanish coach’s teams, with Guardiola coming out on top on six occasions. Real Madrid, meanwhile, have beaten Manchester City four times while the English side have won in five previous meetings.

Tomorrow’s clash will be the twelfth meeting between the two teams and the seventh time since 2020. Of the six previous meetings in that duration, City have won a staggering four times while Real Madrid have won just once.

There are, thus, a lot of statistics that Ancelotti and Co. will look to rewrite tomorrow when the two sides face off in the first leg of their UCL quarterfinal tie.

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

Final come early

It can only be described as unfortunate that two of the Champions League’s top contenders face off in a round as early as the quarterfinals.

Yet, to be the best one must beat the best, and Carlo Ancelotti’s side can use no excuse to defend themselves if they fail to make it past Pep Guardiola’s men.

The clash against Manchester City is indeed worthy of being the finale, and in that sense, the quarterfinal is no less than a title clash.

The victor will have to cross two more hurdles before lifting the trophy, but one can remain assured that none will be as daunting as the opposition they conquer in the quarterfinal.

Los Blancos head into the clash against Manchester City having rediscovered their form in recent games. After thumping 4-0 and 4-2 wins over Celta and Osasuna, the men in white took apart Athletic Club most recently and are on a thirteen-game unbeaten streak.

Their opponents, meanwhile, are unbeaten in a staggering 25 games with their last defeat coming to Aston Villa in December. Their last two results are highly impressive 4-1 and 4-2 scalps over Aston Villa and Crystal Palace respectively.

With one of the two teams set to end their streak in the UCL quarterfinal, Carlo Ancelotti’s men really must step up to ensure they are not the affected party. After all, Manchester City demolished them just over a year ago in the competition’s previous edition.

Tchouameni or Nacho?

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has a fairly clear idea of his best XI at this point in the season. His lineup against City, in that sense, picks itself except for one position on the field.

As revealed earlier in the week, the Italian tactician is in a dilemma over his selection for the centre-back position.

Antonio Rudiger is a guaranteed starter on the night and will be the leader at the back. After all, he was instrumental in keeping Erling Haaland at bay in the first leg last season and it is no coincidence that his absence in the second leg led to Los Blancos’ elimination.

His partner on the night, however, is still undecided. Aurelien Tchouameni and Nacho Fernandez are the manager’s two options, and both make a strong case to play alongside the German.

Who will start in defence for Madrid? (Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

Nacho, given his vast experience and niche as a regular centre-back, is the obvious choice to play against Guardiola’s army.

However, Tchouameni pops up as a useful option given his ability in the air both as a defensive and offensive asset. As it stands, he appears to have the slight edge to feature in the lineup.

Given the English side’s powerful attackers Erling Haaland, Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne, the centre-back is perhaps the single most important position for the result. Needless to say, the coaching staff cannot err on that front.

An ocean of white

Last season, Real Madrid mustered just a 1-1 draw at Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg. They proceeded to the Etihad for the follow-up game, only to realise that their wasted home advantage gave their opponents a front foot.

Playing at their own fortress tomorrow night, Real Madrid must go for blood. A mere draw or a tight win will not suffice, for playing the second leg in England inherently hands Guardiola’s side an advantage in the decisive game.

The key tomorrow, thus, will be Real Madrid’s home advantage and how they capitalise on the same.

The Santiago Bernabeu seldom disappoints in backing its warriors, more so on the big UCL nights. Another such special night awaits the team tomorrow, with the fans association planning a Bernabeu carpeted in pure-white jerseys.

Will Real Madrid strike when it matters and deliver a performance to remember for their fans? Only time will tell.

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Features

Three talking points ahead of Villarreal vs Real Madrid

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Jude Bellingham, Vinicius Jr, Federico Valverde and Arda Guler were all on target when Real Madrid demolished Deportivo Alaves by a 5-0 scoreline midweek.

The win at the Santiago Bernabeu took the team to 93 points in La Liga, with the champion status already earned. The target now, however, is to reach the magical number of 99 points.

Tomorrow, Los Blancos step on the field for their penultimate league clash of the season as they lock horns against Villarreal.

Their opponents, currently placed eighth in the league, are fighting for a place in Europe and must win tomorrow at Estadio de La Ceramica if they are to remain in the race.

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

Can Bellingham maintain the steam?

Jude Bellingham’s dip in form towards the end of the season raised many concerns in the Real Madrid offices over his fitness and physical state. A mini ‘pre-season’ was said to be in the manager’s plan, especially keeping Bellingham’s recovery in mind.

The young midfielder, however, started the team’s game against Deportivo Alaves once more despite rumours of him being rested and dished out a classic on the night. His performance, in many senses, was one that announced his return to form.

In 90 minutes against Alaves, Bellingham scored one goal and provided two assists as the game ended 5-0 in Real Madrid’s favour.

Furthermore, the former Borussia Dortmund star recorded a staggering 121 touches, 99 passes, six key passes and created one big chance. He also completed four dribbles on the night and participated in eight defensive actions.

It thus becomes a serious question ahead of tomorrow’s clash as to how Carlo Ancelotti plans on managing Bellingham’s minutes.

The obvious approach would be to field the youngster from the start and reward his improved performance at the weekend. Concurrently, however, there is concern over the midfielder being overused which inhibits the manager from such a move.

Will Bellingham start against Villarreal or will the likes of Brahim Diaz or Arda Guler get a deserved start? Only time will tell.

Lunin’s heroic exit

Thibaut Courtois’ injury before the commencement of the new season left Real Madrid with a crisis in goal. The repercussions of the blow, however, were not as dire as expected courtesy of Andriy Lunin’s exceptional performances.

Lunin could play his final game of the season vs Villarreal. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Despite starting the campaign behind Kepa Arrizabalaga on the pecking order, the Ukrainian international has done enough to become the team’s primary goalkeeper across all competitions.

Only Courtois’ return last month displaced him from the starting lineup as the manager prioritised bringing the Belgian superstar back to full fitness.

Real Madrid now plan on starting Courtois for the big UCL final at Wembley next month.

While unfair on Lunin who deserves the start, one cannot blame Ancelotti for relying on the player who single-handedly kept the team in the game the last time they featured in a European final.

With Courtois set to start against Real Betis and Borrusia Dortmund, tomorrow could well be Lunin’s final game of the season for Real Madrid and the 25-year-old will look to depart with a bang.

Momentum is paramount

Real Madrid have already been crowned the champions of La Liga, and every game that remains in the competition at this point only serves as a practice encounter for the big challenge that lies ahead.

Los Blancos take on Borussia Dortmund in the finale of the UCL early next month, and only two games remain before the season-defining encounter. A lot, needless to say, will depend on how Ancelotti manages his squad for the two matches that lie ahead.

Considering that the calendar is no longer as hectic as it was a month ago, the manager could well field his best XI against Villarreal aiming to keep the momentum going for his side. After all, it is paramount at this stage in the season.

At the same time, however, the manager must rotate his squad ahead to give fringe players some deserved minutes and balance the playing time of regular starters.

Los Blancos, at this point, are unbeaten in 23 games across all competitions and have the momentum fairly on their side. Maintaining it with a positive result tomorrow irrespective of the final decision on the extent of rotations will thus be crucial for the Merengues.

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