Four changes in the 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could line up against RB Leipzig
Real Madrid have made an exceptional start to the 2022/23 campaign. Los Blancos have a 100% record across all competitions so far, having won seven in seven in La Liga, UEFA Super Cup and Champions League combined.
And, after beating RCD Mallorca 4-1 at the weekend, Carlo Ancelotti & co. will be aiming to extend that run when they host RB Leipzig at the Santiago Bernabeu later tonight in a Group F encounter in the Champions League.
It will be Real Madrid’s biggest test of the season so far as they come up against a Leipzig side enjoying the new-manager bounce. After a poor start to the campaign, they have appointed Marco Rose as their new boss, who led them to a 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund in his first match in charge.
Given the might of the German side’s attacking unit, things will not be easy for Real Madrid and they will have to fight hard to keep their winning run intact. Ahead of this much-anticipated encounter at the Bernabeu, Madrid Universal takes a look at how Los Merengues might line up.
There will be an enforced change made in defence from the game against Mallorca as Lucas Vazquez has been sidelined with an injury. First-choice right-back Dani Carvajal will reclaim his spot in the right-back position.
With Eder Militao still not fit, Antonio Rudiger and David Alaba ought to continue as the centre-backs for Real Madrid. The former has not made the steadiest of starts for the men in white and will need to step up against the threat of Timo Werner and Christopher Nkunku.
Ferland Mendy would be the obvious choice in the left-back position for Real Madrid, with Alaba being deployed in the centre-back role. The quartet will shield Thibaut Courtois in goal as he searches for his second clean sheet in the Champions League this season.
Given the plethora of options in midfield at Ancelotti’s disposal, wholesale changes are expected tonight. To begin with, Aurelien Tchouameni, who has already endeared himself to the fans and his new teammates, should start after being rested at the weekend.
The Frenchman will slot in as the No. 6 for the home team, with Toni Kroos likely to be given a breather after starting the last two matches. Fellow veteran midfielder Luka Modric should, however, return to the lineup after making a substitute appearance against Mallorca.
Dani Ceballos made a big impression in a rare start over the weekend. And while he is likely to get more minutes going forward, against Leipzig, teenage sensation Eduardo Camavinga is expected to get the nod as the third midfielder.
Eden Hazard started as a false nine in Karim Benzema’s absence against Mallorca but failed to stamp his authority on the game. Real Madrid looked much more menacing once Rodrygo Goes moved into a central role and the Brazilian should start as the No. 9 today ahead of Hazard.
Rodrygo moving in centrally vacates the right-wing spot, which could likely be occupied by Federico Valverde. Fresh from scoring a stunning goal, the Uruguayan will be high on confidence while his energy will come in handy against RB Leipzig’s attack-minded left-back, David Raum.
Vinicius Jr is the leading man for Real Madrid in Benzema’s absence and will continue to feature from the left flank.
Vinicius · Rodrygo · Valverde
Camavinga · Tchouameni · Modric
Mendy · Alaba · Rudiger · Carvajal
Off the bench
While Hazard may drop out to the bench, he is very much likely to get some minutes in the latter stages of the contest. Marco Asensio could also be in line for some on-field action after his touchline antics over the weekend.
Nacho Fernandez is Ancelotti’s trusted veteran and could be called upon in case Real Madrid are looking to shut shop or if any of the starting defenders are having an off night. Kroos, too, might get on the field depending on the circumstances.
Real Madrid vs Athletic Club: End of an era, farewells, tight race for second place
Real Madrid will walk down the tunnel of Santiago Bernabeu one last time this season on Sunday night. The men in white are pitted against Athletic Club on their final match-day, and the game will not be an easy affair by any means.
The Basque side sit in seventh place on the league standings with 50 points in 37 appearances. However, their qualification for the UEFA Conference League is in danger with Osasuna lurking close behind with an equal number of points.
Anything less than a win could prove insufficient for the visitors and it is clear that they arrive at Santiago Bernabeu with nothing less than a win on their agenda. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao.
1. The end of an era for the number 9 shirt?
The grey area around Karim Benzema’s future has only widened in recent days. From a situation where his continuity at Real Madrid was taken for granted, it did not take long for the Frenchman’s story to enter a steep deviation.
An economically tempting proposal from Saudi Arabia had Benzema seriously contemplating a move away from Santiago Bernabeu, and reports stated that his departure from the Spanish club was close to complete.
The world, thus, looked in anticipation of his next official interaction with the media. The Ballon d’Or winner publicly addressed the topic for the first time earlier this week, and it is safe to say that his words gave nothing away.
Benzema neither confirmed nor completely refuted the rumours of his exit to the media. His situation is balanced on the blade of a knife and could tip in either direction.
In that sense, there is a good chance that tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu is Karim Benzema’s final game for Real Madrid. If the striker does choose to change loyalties, it would mark the end of an era for the team’s number nine position.
It has been over a decade since the Frenchman took over the prestigious kit. He has played 647 games for the club so far in his career, scoring a stunning 353 goals in the process. Of them, 98 have been match-winning contributions.
2. A day of farewells
Earlier today, Real Madrid announced the departure of Marco Asensio from the club. The Spanish winger appears set to sign for PSG for the 2023-24 season and will bid adieu on Sunday. However, he will not be the only player playing his final game for the club tomorrow.
Nacho Fernandez has been a critical part of Real Madrid’s success in recent years but is another name close to sealing an exit. The defender is not satisfied with the playing time under his belt at the club and has not yet responded to the renewal offer on his table.
With his contract running out in less than 30 days, he appears closer to leaving than staying. One can expect an announcement from Nacho on Sunday night after the game at the Bernabeu, which could be his final game in white.
The situation with Dani Ceballos is quite similar. The Spanish midfielder is still undecided on his future, although there is still a slight chance he could continue at the club. Staying on the subject of players making their final appearance, however, he could be one on the list.
Away from the stories of incomplete renewal negotiations, Mariano Diaz is one player whose departure from the club is confirmed. Ferland Mendy, Jesus Vallejo, Alvaro Odriozola and Eden Hazard are some of the other candidates well-placed to make departures, although nothing can be said for sure.
3. A tight race for second place
There is not much to play for on Sunday night except for the emotional tag of it being the season’s final game. Yet, the men in white will not be without an objective against Athletic Club.
Los Blancos sit on 77 points in 37 league appearances this season and just have a one-point lead over third-placed Atletico Madrid. Needless to say, they must be vary of their position on the standings for any complacency could see them drop down the ladder.
Diego Simeone’s men take on fifth-placed Villarreal at the same time as Real Madrid’s game against Athletic Club. Even if Carlo Ancelotti’s men settle for a draw against the Basque side, the second place would be Atletico Madrid’s to lose.
With both games kicking off simultaneously, there will be nerves throughout the ninety minutes in Madrid. One can only hope for action-filled games to keep the anxiety and adrenaline high.