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Hazard starts as the false 9 in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could line up against Barcelona

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Photo by GEOFF CADDICK/AFP via Getty Images

The first El Clasico of the season is upon us, albeit in pre-season style, as defending Champions League winners Real Madrid take on a rejuvenated Barcelona.

The game will take place in Las Vegas as Barcelona pay their third friendly of the pre-season, and Madrid just their first.

While there have been claims about El Clasico losing its charm since the departure of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, this could be the start of a new battle, as two of the best strikers in the world, Karim Benzema and Robert Lewandowski go up against each other.

Benzema was arguably the best player in Europe last season as he led Los Blancos to the UCL and La Liga title, overshadowing Lewandowski’s incredible 48-goal season across the Bundesliga and Champions League.

Unfortunately, the Frenchman will not feature tomorrow due to an injury. It is, however, expected to be a game of two halves as both teams will switch their starting lineup entirely at the break.

Madrid Universal takes a look at how Carlo Ancelotti could set his side up for the first game since the UCL final against Liverpool.

First Half

There is no evidence of any player’s confirmed place in the starting lineup, but we expect Ancelotti to use a few big guns given the importance of El Clasico. Vinicius Jr will likely take over duties on the left-wing, while Marco Asensio starts on the other side.

There have been several reports of Eden Hazard being used as a false 9, and we expect them to come to life as the Belgian takes charge of the attack centrally.

He will be aided by Toni Kroos and Eduardo Camavinga as the central midfielders, while new signing Aurelien Tchouameni starts as the defensive midfielder.

€100 million boy. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

With Ferland Mendy as the only left-back in the team, he could get the nod as the starter, accompanying Dani Carvajal who starts as the right-back. David Alaba will likely partner Antonio Rudiger as the centre-backs.

Thibaut Courtois will, in all likelihood, don the gloves for the first 45.

Vinicius · Hazard · Asensio
Kroos · Tchouameni · Camavinga
Mendy · Alaba · Rudiger · Carvajal
Courtois

Second Half

At the break, we expect Rodrygo to be one of the first players in, presumably in his preferred left-wing role. Borja Mayoral has just returned from loan and could be given the keys as the striker, while Lucas Vazquez returns to his natural right-wing spot.

The midfield is heavily contested between several players, but Ancelotti will probably not want to overburden Luka Modric immediately. As such, Dani Ceballos and Federico Valverde could be the central midfield duo in at the break.

Tchouameni will be replaced by the current occupant of the no. 6 role at Madrid, Casemiro. Cannot rule out Reiner’s involvement, either, but it seems improbable he comes on right away.

Nacho Fernandez is well-versed as a left-back and will likely replace Mendy in that capacity, while Alvaro Odriozola returns to Madrid as the backup right-back.

In the heart of the defence, we will likely have Eder Militao subbed in alongside Jesus Vallejo, who will be fighting as the fifth-choice centre-back for most of the season. This duo will screen Andriy Lunin, who is expected to replace Courtois.

Rodrygo · Mayoral · Vazquez
Ceballos · Casemiro · Valverde
Nacho · Vallejo · Militao · Odriozola
Lunin

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Features

Five players who will be fixed starters for Real Madrid next season

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Following a successful campaign, Real Madrid are poised for significant changes in their roster due to a combination of player arrivals and departures.

The responsibility of blending new faces with established stars will fall to coach Carlo Ancelotti and his staff as they aim to maintain the club’s competitive edge domestically and in Europe.

And to predict the team’s probable strategy and performance amidst these changes, it is imperative to identify the key players who will be constant starters.

Kylian Mbappe

The new talisman. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

With Real Madrid no longer viewing Mbappe through rose-tinted lenses and finally being able to dress him in the royal white jersey, the Frenchman is expected to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Owing to his instinctive nature to find the back of the net, he is poised to be paired alongside Vinicius Jr. in attack.

Last season, the 2018 World Cup winner scored a whopping 44 goals in all competitions. Thus Real Madrid will be banking heavily on Mbappe’s ability to ask questions of opposition defenders in the final third.

It is being said that Mbappe is all set to wear the iconic number 9 jersey at Real Madrid, which is indicative of the role he will play, as a focal striker.

Vinicius Jr.

The main man at Real Madrid. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Brazilian is in pole position to win the Ballon d’Or this year, and looking back on his season with Real Madrid, it is easy to see why.

Despite losing Karim Benzema, his usual partner in crime over the past few years, Vinicius performed remarkably well in Ancelotti’s new system.

Relentlessly taking on defenders, arriving into space, scoring goals, and stepping up in the biggest of moments, he was one of Real Madrid’s major lynchpins throughout the season as they lifted a historic double.

Vinicius impressively racked up 24 goals last season, and given his importance to the team, the likelihood of him not maintaining a starting role next season is nearly nonexistent.

Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid Fans’ Player of the Season. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Defying all expectations in his debut season, Jude Bellingham established himself as a key player for Real Madrid, demonstrating exceptional versatility, and maturity far beyond his years.

Although the Englishman’s performances wavered in the final stretch of the season, Bellingham’s contributions ensured Los Blancos were able to compete in the Champions League and especially La Liga.

In addition to scoring 23 goals in all competitions, he has constantly been a beacon of reliability in midfield and has proven to be the voice of reason on the pitch.

There have been murmurs about Bellingham potentially being berthed deeper next season as Real Madrid intends to use him as Kroos’ replacement. However, given his versatility, he is expected to be a crucial player wherever he plays.

Antonio Rudiger

A mainstay at the back. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Rudiger is one of the major reasons Real Madrid managed to successfully disguise their injury crisis. Despite players falling like dominos in the back-line, the German stood resolutely as a dependable figure for most of the campaign, arguably enjoying one of his best seasons.

Expertly anticipating opposition strikers’ movements, he leaps forward to thwart attacks before they begin. Moreover, thanks to his large stature and incredible recovery pace, he is able to cover distances behind.

Reports have mentioned that Carlo Ancelotti views him as a crucial component of the squad and potential arrivals, such as those of Leny Yoro and Rafa Marin, in the back-line are unlikely to devalue his presence.

Thibaut Courtois

Back like he was never gone. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

In spite of spending more than half of the campaign on the sidelines recovering from an ACL and MCL injury, Courtois is worth his weight in gold for Real Madrid.

He performed admirably in the final few games of the season and did no wrong against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League final.

While Andriy Lunin made up for his absence with flying colours, he is placed below Courtois in the pecking order for now, which also has made the Ukrainian lean towards an exit.

The fact that Lunin, after his sublime season, stands no chance of dethroning Courtois between the sticks is a testament to how much the club appreciates the Belgian. Even at the age of 32, the Belgian keeper is anticipated to retain an important role in the team.

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