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Four changes in the 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could line up against RB Leipzig

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Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images

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.

Defence

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.

Midfield

Real Madrid’s new midfield general (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

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.

Attack

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
Courtois

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.

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Features

Real Madrid 3-1 Atletico Madrid: Player Ratings

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Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

A scintillating Madrid derby saw Real Madrid leap past Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid by a scoreline of 3-1 to book a place in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey. As one-sided as the scoreline looks, the game was far from that.

Atletico Madrid took the early lead through Alvaro Morata in the first half and held onto their lead for close to an hour. However, Rodrygo had other plans and equalised for the hosts with a stunning solo strike to force extra time.

Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr then scored in the first and second periods of extra time to give Real Madrid the win. Notably, Los Rojiblancos were down to ten men by that point, with Stefan Savic having been sent off.

Madrid Universal brings you the player ratings for both teams at the Madrid derby.

Real Madrid

Thibaut Courtois: 8.5

Absolutely gargantuan. Made a whopping five saves to keep his side in the game throughout, including four from inside the box.

Nacho Fernandez: 7.5

Playing as a right-back, Nacho did a great job at controlling Reinildo and Antoine Griezmann.

Eder Militao: 8

Calm, cool, and composed. 13 recoveries, seven clearances, four headed clearances, one interception and six duels won in addition to a game-high 117 passes.

Antonio Rudiger: 7

Tight performance from the German, was part of Real Madrid’s resilient defence that prevented an Atleti equaliser late on.

Ferland Mendy: 4

One of the Merengues’ worst players in the first half, limited their width in the final third and did not involve in the buildup. Replaced before half-time after suffering an injury.

Luka Modric: 7.5

Played the full 120 minutes and returned to his imperial best after a mild slump in recent games. Had 136 touches, completed 94% of his passes. Led the team with 22 passes into the final third and assisted Rodrygo’s opener.

Eduardo Camavinga: 7

Solid yet again. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images)

Did well as the pivot against Simeone’s men, and showed the world that he can compete with Aurelien Tchouameni for a spot as the holding midfielder.

Toni Kroos: 7

Reliable as ever in his 74 minutes on the field. Completed 97% of his passes, created two chances and had 11 passes into the final third. Defensively, he recorded six recoveries, a headed clearance, two clearances and won three duels.

Federico Valverde: 6

A relatively sub-par performance from the Uruguayan. Took five shots against Real Madrid, but only one hit the target. Looked slightly off from the get-go but did not make any glaring mistakes either.

Karim Benzema: 8

A lively presence in attack created three chances and took four shots on the night. Had his big moment in the first half of extra time when he found himself at the receiving end of Rodrygo’s ball across the goal. Faced with an open goal, the Frenchman gave his side the lead.

Vinicius Jr: 8.5

Phenomenal, as is the norm. Was a constant threat down the left flank, and created five chances including a big chance. Got the assist to his name on the night, though Rodrygo deservedly can claim to have been the one to spot Benzema’s good position.

Scored a solo golazo in the final minute of the game to make it 3-1 after he ran past the entire Atleti defence and beat Oblak with a low shot.

SUBSTITUTES

Dani Ceballos: 8.5

Kept up his good form in the derby, and found Vinicius for the final goal of the game. Sensational cameo with 120 touches despite not playing the first half.

Rodrygo: 9

Game-changer. (Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

The youngster came on in the 70th minute for Valverde and got on the scoreboard just ten minutes later. Scored a world-class goal to level things up by running beyond four Atletico defenders and poking the ball past Oblak.

Was a lively presence throughout, and injected energy into Real Madrid’s forward line when they needed it the most. Assisted the second goal with great presence of mind.

Marco Asensio: 3

Discouraging cameo disappeared on the field after coming on.

Atletico Madrid

Jan Oblak: 6

Continued his poor run of form. Could have reacted better to both Rodrygo and Vinicius’ goals as he was easily beaten near the post.

Nahuel Molina: 7.5

The Argentine’s one-touch ball across the face of the goal after receiving Koke’s pass was the reason Los Rojiblancos could take the lead. Was massive in defence with six recoveries and three clearances. Not much he could do about the goals scored by Real.

Stefan Savic: 5

The veteran centre-back was taken to the cleaners by Rodrygo for Real Madrid’s equaliser but was solid for most of the remainder of the game. 

Made a headless decision to commit to a late poor tackle on Camavinga. As a result, he saw a second yellow and left his team a man down for extra time.

Mario Hermoso: 6.5

Average performance from the Spanish defender was left to fight a lone bate after Savic’s sending-off.

Reinildo: 5

One of the Rojiblancos’ most disappointing players against Real Madrid. Offered absolutely nothing in the final third and suffered defensively against Rodrygo in the second half.

Koke: 6.5

Was absolutely vital for Atletico’s opening goal as he found Molina with a very difficult lofted ball. However, a relatively average performance from the Spanish veteran apart from his moment of magic. Nothing flashy.

Rodrigo de Paul: 7

The World Cup winner played over 80 minutes and drove Atletico’s midfield. Created two chances and a big chance, and completed 90% of his attempted 71 passes. 

Thomas Lemar: 4.5

Barely visible in his 75 minutes on the field, no major contributions or extensive involvement in Atletico’s play.

Antoine Griezmann: 6.5

Knocked out. (Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

Led the charge for Atletico in attack and put in a hard-working defensive performance to back it up. Yet, one would expect more impact from a player of his stature.

Angel Correa: 5

Was a shadow of his true self, and lost a game-high nine duels at Santiago Bernabeu. 

Alvaro Morata: 8

Helped Atletico Madrid take the lead against his former club with a simple finish into an open goal. Had just 12 passes in 63 minutes, and completed just six. Could not record a single shot on goal apart from the one he scored from.

SUBSTITUTES

Axel Witsel: 4.5

Came on at the hour mark for Morata as Diego Simeone looked to flip on the defensive switch. Created and missed a big chance each during his stay on the field but was horribly undone by Rodrygo for the Merengues’ equaliser. Involved in another mess-up in Real Madrid’s second as he failed to clear the ball.

Yannick Carrasco: 4

Just 22 touches and 14 passes in close to 45 minutes of action. 

Memphis Depay: 6

Had a good chance to equalise in the 109th minute but put forward a tame effort. A good cameo from the Dutchman from a creative perspective, nevertheless.

Saul Niguez: 6

Good defensive numbers in his cameo but could not give Simeone’s side any edge in the final third. 

Geoffrey Kondogbia: 6

Nothing flashy from the central midfielder completed 100% of his attempted dribbles.

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