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How Real Madrid could line up against Atletico Madrid

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Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Under different circumstances, Sunday’s clash between the two Madrid based giants would be a decisive one for the title race. Year after year, the Madrid derby lives up to its billing, producing nail-biting action until the very last minute.

Yet, this season the hype around the game is subdued. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have already been crowned the champions of Spain, and Atletico Madrid will only play for a place in the Champions League.

Needless to say, a win at the Wanda Metropolitano is more of a necessity for Diego Simeone’s side than it is for Los Blancos.

Real Madrid have their eyes set on the Champions League final now. The manager is said to have decided against fielding his big stars against Atletico Madrid, and it will be interesting to see which fringe players get the opportunity on the night.

Starting XI

Thibaut Courtois has been one of the team’s standout players this season. The Belgian international made eight saves against Manchester City earlier this week including four from inside the box, to take his side through to the final of the UCL.

He is expected to be rested after a tireless spell, though, with Andriy Lunin set to replace him.

David Alaba missed Real Madrid’s semifinal midweek and is not expected to start against Atletico Madrid either. Nacho Fernandez put up a resilient display against Pep Guardiola’s side, and retains his place.

The revamped defensive line will also see Jesus Vallejo get a rare start on the night as Eder Militao receives a well-deserved break. The 25-year-old has only played 100 minutes in the league this season and will look to turn his situation around with a positive display.

The rotations continue even as the focus shifts to the right-back position. Daniel Carvajal was instrumental in Real Madrid’s aggregate equaliser against City, and will start from the bench on Sunday. In his place, Lucas Vazquez will receive the manager’s nod.

At left-back, Marcelo is expected to start on the night. The Brazilian is likely in his final season with the team, and will likely get what will be one of his final starts in the white colours of Madrid.

The trio of Casemiro, Toni Kroos, and Luka Modric have carried Ancelotti’s side through thick and thin this season. Recognising this, the manager will try to give them a break and use the chance to test the young midfielders in the team.

Eduardo Camavinga had an instrumental role to play in all three Real Madrid goals against Manchester City. As the Frenchman grows from strength to strength, he will receive a start at the Wanda Metropolitano to continue his astronomical rise.

A special talent. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

With Camavinga taking over duties as the holding midfielder, Federico Valverde will be deployed in a more attacking role, while Toni Kroos starts since Dani Ceballos is injured.

Now many changes are expected in the final third, especially given the imperious form of the forward department. However, there is a chance for Vinicius Jr to be rested against Simeone’s side.

Marco Asensio is best placed to replace the Brazilian winger on Sunday night and will start on the right-wing. The Spanish international has ten goals in 29 La Liga games this year. While he has had his special nights, his consistency has been a real issue.

We expect Karim Benzema to start as the centre-forward on the night. Though he has been amongst Real Madrid’s most extensively used players this year, the lack of a realistic backup option in such a big game forces the manager to field him in every game.

The final player in the lineup will be Rodrygo. When the world lost hope and wrote Real Madrid off against City, the teenager stepped up.

The Brazilian scored twice in additional time to secure a tie on aggregate before Benzema scored the winner. With his stocks soaring high, he will certainly get a start.

Substitutes

With most of the regular starters on the bench, Ancelotti will not be lost for options to bring on. Should they find themselves trailing, we can expect Vinicius to come on to add more depth to the frontline.

As much as he needs and deserves rest, Modric should come in for some game time, probably in place of Kroos or Valverde.

With Gareth Bale injured, Luka Jovic has options to come on and replace Benzema as the striker. The same goes for Mariano Diaz, who put on an underwhelming display against Espanyol.

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Features

Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona

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Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

Real Madrid return to the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night for the first time since booking a place in the semifinal of the UEFA Champions League.

Having dethroned the reigning UCL champions midweek, they will look to do the same to the reigning Spanish champions at the weekend as they take on Barcelona in La Liga.

The Catalans have been on a mini resurgence in recent weeks, but their momentum and morale was crushed midweek with a defeat to PSG in the second leg of the UCL quarterfinal.

Real Madrid have got the better of the Blaugranas twice this season already, and appear to have the advantage over them for the third time ahead of Sunday’s clash. A win on the night would have massive implications.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Barcelona.

Riding the high

Manchester City may have embarrassed Real Madrid by a 4-0 scoreline at the Etihad one year ago. Earlier this week, however, Los Blancos exacted their revenge at the same venue.

Pep Guardiola’s side may have been the more dominant team on the night with the better chances. On a scale of who deserved to go through for attacking football, the Premier League giants indeed would have made the cut.

Yet, Real Madrid held on through the storm and pulled through an extra 30 minutes to take the game to a penalty shootout. The masters of nerves kept their cool through the tense shootout and pulled through in clutch Real Madrid style.

Ancelotti must play his cards right (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

They now enter El Clasico riding on the wave of momentum that has been going their way all season, and they must look to capitalise on the psychological edge they boast on the psychological front.

After all, Barcelona are coming off a tough defeat which sealed their elimination from Europe and are far from their best state from a psychological standpoint. A mentally weakened opposition is, after all, half conquered.

The final rung

El Clasico has lost its charm in recent years and is overtaken by several other fascinating fixtures across the globe as football’s elite clash.

While a part of the decline is due to the departure of big names from both teams, Barcelona’s overall fall in quality has an equal role to play in the same.

While the game may not have the same global appeal it did a few years ago, however, El Clasico seldom arrives without any reward on the line. This time, it brings with it a real chance for Carlo Ancelotti’s side to celebrate a massive success.

With seven games to go in La Liga, Los Blancos sit comfortably on 78 points while second-placed Barcelona are on 70 points. A win tomorrow will widen the gap to 11 points, and virtually seal La Liga in Real Madrid’s name.

After all, it is almost unthinkable that the men in white will lose four of their next six games after the Clasico. Tomorrow’s game, thus, brings with it the ultimate prize.

Carlo Ancelotti’s focus against Barcelona, thus, will be to ensure that his side do not slacken out and that they bring home all three points the easy way. After all, a defeat at the Bernabeu will cut their lead to five points and set up for a nervy finish.

The right rotations

Having just played a tiring 120-minute shift against Manchester City on Wednesday night, it is but natural for Los Blancos to feel fatigued.

Checking on players’ fitness and opting for the right rotations, albeit without impacting the quality on the field, thus will be Ancelotti’s greatest challenge ahead of the showdown against Barcelona.

For starters, Toni Kroos is expected to be replaced by Luka Modric in midfield on the night after playing a long shift midweek. The Croatian showed against Manchester City that he still has magic in his boots, and a start against Barcelona would not be undeserved.

The second likely change in midfield will be the return of Aurelien Tchouameni, who was suspended midweek. The Frenchman is expected to take the place of his teammate Eduardo Camavinga at the base of midfield.

Moving to the final third, the player in question for the game is Vinicius Jr, especially considering that he was facing muscular discomfort after the game in England.

He has been included in the squad to face Barcelona, but it is critical that Ancelotti evaluates his fitness before handing him the start.

If indeed the Brazilian is not fit to play from the first minute, Rodrygo will take his place on the left wing with Joselu covering the second spot in attack.

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