The biggest clash of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 is undoubtedly the face-off between Real Madrid and PSG. Both sides lead their respective leagues and promise to put up a gargantuan performance to seek a place in the Quarterfinals.
Los Blancos have been dealt with a big injury blow ahead of the critical clash. Karim Benzema’s absence is the reason for the club’s recent dip in form. Though initially thought to be a minor problem, the player has taken longer than expected to recover.
Now, his place in the starting lineup against PSG is in doubt even though Benzema traveled with the team.
The most tempting option for Carlo Ancelotti will be to deploy Gareth Bale as the central striker with two wingers to complement him. Vinicius Jr has earned a permanent spot on the left-wing, but the right-wing is where the manager needs to make a decision.
The combination of Vinicius – Bale could be completed by either Marco Asensio or Valverde. The Vinicius-Bale-Asensio lineup seems to be the way to go, but the latter’s tendency to disconnect from the game can be a real worry. Yet, the Vinicius-Bale-Rodrygo lineup has its vices too as the latter struggles with his decision-making in the final third.
The third possibility would be to drop Bale and play Asensio as the central striker with the two Brazilian wingers, namely Vinicius and Rodrygo on either side. This formation will prove to be very dynamic, but seemingly lacks a finisher who can make runs.
The last option at Ancelotti’s hands is the trio of Vinicius – Hazard – Bale. In this case, it is the unclear form of the Belgian that proves to be a drawback.
It remains to be seen as to which trident the manager opts for on the night. The Parc des Princes will not be an easy venue to walk away with three points. Needless to say, the front three will have to be the X factor on the night.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Granada | La Liga
Napoli fought tooth and nail for all three points against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this week. They took the early lead in the first half, then fought back to find an equaliser after Real Madrid put two past them.
In the end, however, they were outdone by the hosts’ resilience and never-say-die attitude. The result thus registered Real Madrid’s fourth win on the trot and twelfth game without a defeat.
The men in white must now look ahead to their next La Liga game scheduled to kick off in just over 24 hours. Faced against Granada in a critical matchday, the aim will be to take all three points and thus maintain a healthy position in the standings.
Ancelotti announced some key recoveries in his pre-match press conference and also confirmed that Jude Bellingham would be fit to participate on the evening. Yet, he is concurrently in a difficult moment in terms of squad fitness.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Granada vs Real Madrid.
A clash of two poles
While Ancelotti’s Real Madrid sit lavishly on the top of La Liga’s standings, their opponents for Saturday afternoon have quite a contrasting fate. Granada sit on the other end of the league table and find themselves in a desolate situation 14 match days into the season.
Granada are currently 19th in La Liga with just one win in 14 games, and have changed managers, with Alexander Medina replacing Paco Lopez. They have lost a staggering nine games and walked away with one point on four occasions.
Granada have only scored 19 goals all season while conceding on 33 occasions. Comparing the numbers to Real Madrid’s 31 goals scored and nine goals conceded speaks volumes about the form of both teams heading into tomorrow’s clash.
The visitors’ last win in La Liga came back in August, and it is safe to say that a victory vs Real Madrid will do them a world of good. They will be the underdogs at the Bernabeu, but nothing is impossible considering that they drew with Barcelona not so long ago.
Saturday’s clash will thus be interesting, to say the least. With the injury-inflicted league leaders taking on a relegation-threatened side, the script cannot be predicted.
The rising phenomenon
Real Madrid’s injury crisis has not been easy on the manager. Ancelotti has been forced to rework his dynamics time and time again with a new player falling prey to the endless pit in every game.
The Italian is now in a situation where he has only four players left in the middle of the park. Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, Jude Bellingham, and Dani Ceballos all started Real Madrid’s last game but it was young Nico Paz who stole the headlines.
The youngster has risen to prominence in Los Blancos’ latest injury emergency and his prominence has only increased over the past weeks. In the team’s latest outing against Napoli, he was on the field for close to half an hour and scored a crucial goal in the 84th minute.
With a tight schedule ahead and limited resources at his disposal, Ancelotti must look to rotate his men in midfield. Paz, on that front, is the Italian gaffer’s best choice and must look to make the most of his minutes tomorrow.
The golden chance
The biggest talking point from La Liga so far has been Girona’s stunning run at the beginning of the season. The Catalan side surprised everyone with win after win and stole the headlines by retaining the sole lead in the league until match day 13.
After six straight wins, Athletic Club broke Girona’s streak last weekend with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Estadi Montilivi. Having dropped two points, they are now level with Real Madrid in the standings with 35 points in 14 games.
It will thus be Ancelotti’s objective to take all three points against Granada and make a strong push towards taking the lead over Girona. After all, the co-leaders face a difficult opponent in Valencia and could well drop points.
Moreover, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are set to face off later this weekend. One, or both of the Spanish giants will drop points on the night, thus giving Real Madrid further impetus to gun for all three points tomorrow.
Considering the team’s good run of form in recent games, the dressing room will be confident about securing the much-needed result.