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



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

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

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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Las Palmas | La Liga



Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The heartbreak at Civitas Metropolitano saw Real Madrid drop down to third on the La Liga standings for the first time this season. They now sit on 15 points from six games, only one point behind leaders Barcelona.

Yet, there is barely time for the team to recover. Less than 72 hours after their defeat, the Merengues play host to Las Palmas in the seventh Matchday of La Liga in a tricky fixture.

Garcia Pimienta’s side have improved leaps and bounds in recent times, although their start to the new season has been far from positive.

Las Palmas were winless in their first five league games but picked up a first win in their most recent outing against Granada.

With the visitors coming off their first win and the hosts their first loss, it will be interesting to see how the game of momentum plays out.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Wednesday’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu.

The important reaction

Having secured six wins in six games under their belt, the threat of breaking the moment was always lurking around the corner from Real Madrid. After all, their wins to that point were not always convincing.

Jude Bellingham’s magic, Joselu’s constant threat and the talented midfield helped Los Blancos on their way to scrappy wins over the weeks. Yet, it was always glaringly clear that they had deficiencies in defence and the final third.

All of Real Madrid’s troubles came to the forefront on Sunday and were left glaringly exposed. The end result was a defeat that left a bitter taste in the mouths of players and fans.

Despite facing their first setback of the season, however, the men in white have no time to lament. After all, the hectic schedule leaves them little time between games.

It is thus of utmost importance that Real Madrid does not slip into a vicious state of negative momentum. As they face off against Las Palmas midweek, Carlo Ancelotti’s side needs a strong and dominant win to keep spirits high.

Considering that they will be back at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid will be the favourites by far on the night. Nevertheless, there will be pressure on the players to take all three points.

Limelight on the manager

Under the cosh. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

The aftermath of the defeat to Atletico Madrid sent ripples through the Spanish media. It was reported that the Real Madrid board was not entirely happy with the list of ‘sins’ committed by Ancelotti in the clash at Civitas Metropolitano.

It thus goes without saying that the limelight will be on the manager on Wednesday.

For starters, the Italian gaffer must get the starting lineup right and not go overboard with his rotations. Aurelien Tchouameni is a must for the Merengues’ defensive efforts and must be introduced back into the lineup midweek.

Moreover, there will be pressure on him to revert to the winning 4-4-2 diamond formation featuring two natural forwards including a striker.

With Joselu returning to the lineup, Jude Bellingham must shift back to his more comfortable attacking midfield role.

Moreover, the manager must strike the right balance between youth and experience, for both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric can no longer start together.

Perhaps the most important job Ancelotti is faced with, however, is in defence. Both David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger appeared lost in the last game, and it remains to be seen if the manager ropes Nacho Fernandez in to strike a better dynamic.

Return of the magician

While Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao are amongst Real Madrid’s most valuable players, it is Vinicius Jr’s injury that hit the club the hardest.

The Merengues unfortunately have a very thin and fragile forward line this season with just three players competing for two spots. Of the three names, Vinicius is the single most important one.

The Brazilian star may not have started the 2023-24 season at his optimal level considering his altered role in the new formation. Yet, he is the Merengues’ most lethal weapon to break open defences and create chances.

The men in white have had problems since the Selecao star hobbled off the field injured against Celta Vigo.

Their games against Getafe and Union Berlin were both down to last-gasp winners, while the defeat to Atletico Madrid showed everything wrong with the team.

Vinicius Jr is set to make his return in tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu, and there could be no better news for Ancelotti.

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