On Saturday night, Real Madrid host Real Sociedad in what poses to be a tricky challenge. The Basque side sit sixth on the league standings, with 12 wins and eight draws in their 26 games so far.
However, their recent performance in big games has been far from convincing. Imanol Barrenetxea’s side received a pasting in the Basque derby against Athletic Club at San Mames before getting knocked out of the Europa League at home by RB Leipzig.
They have come back relatively strong with two wins against Mallorca and Osasuna. Yet, Ancellotti’s side will fancy their chances against the relatively out-of-form Sociedad side.
The starting XI
Fresh off their win over Rayo Vallecano, Real Madrid are in good touch heading into a decisive week. Given that the gargantuan second leg against Paris-Saint Germain is only four days away, Carlo Ancellotti will have to select his lineup wisely. Moreover, the worrying injury status of key players is another factor that could influence the manager’s plans.
Thibaut Courtois will continue to start in goal for Los Blancos. The Belgian international fad a fabulous February and was also nominated as one of the players of the month. After making five key saves against Rayo Vallecano and steering his team to three points, he will look to ride on the high tide.
David Alaba missed the team’s last clash owing to a groin injury, and his place in the lineup was taken by Nacho Fernandez. The Austrian completed training with the group this week and seems set to make his comeback against Real Sociedad.
Partnering him in central defence will likely be Eder Militao. The 24-year-old centre-back has been rock solid for the men in white after a shaky start to his career in Madrid.
At right-back, Ancellotti has two options to choose from. Dani Carvajal is the first choice to start on the night, but Lucas Vasquez presents an equally strong position to compete. Given the midweek clash against PSG, the manager could opt for the latter and keep Carvajal well-rested.
Ferland Mendy has covered the left flank well this season and will continue to do the same on Saturday. The French international will be up against David Silva and Portu on his flank and will have to be at the top of his game.
In midfield, Ancellotti is faced with a dilemma. Toni Kroos missed training for Los Blancos owing to a muscular injury and is expected to miss the clash against Real Sociedad. The German is even said to be a doubt for the Champions League fixture midweek. To compound the manager’s headache, Federico Valverde continues to be unavailable.
Ideally, the coach would have liked to rest Luka Modric ahead of the PSG clash. Now, however, the Croatian’s involvement at the weekend seems inevitable.
Casemiro will be the second player in midfield, holding the fortress from a deep position. The Brazilian had a relatively poor performance against Rayo Vallecano and will look up to recoup his form ahead of the big clash midweek.
The third cog in the wheel of midfield is where the uncertainty lies. Two options stand out for Ancellotti to choose from. Isco has not played in Real Madrid’s last four games, yet, the circumstances make him a valid option to start on the night.
The more probable choice is Eduardo Camavinga. The youngster came on for the final ten minutes last week with no big contribution to the result. He could get a full start on the night.
In the attack, one can expect Vinicius Jr to start on the left flank. The young Brazilian assisted the winner vs Vallecano in addition to three key passes and two dribbles. He will be a key part of the team’s dynamics against Real Sociedad.
No Real Madrid lineup is complete without the inclusion of Karim Benzema. and the lineup is expected to be rounded up by Marco Asensio on the right-wing. The Spaniard was one of the brightest sparks on the field against Rayo Vallecano and will look to keep his good form going.
Dani Ceballos and Isco are valuable options on the bench and could replace Luka Modric in the second half.
It goes without saying that Ancelotti would like to give his forwards some rest ahead of a difficult second leg in the Champions League. Eden Hazard is an option he could consider in the second half. A similar use case could be presented for young Rodrygo.
Not to forget Gareth Bale, who could come on for Benzema in the latter stages of the encounter.
Three talking points ahead of Rayo Vallecano vs Real Madrid | La Liga GW 25
Nestled in the outskirts of Madrid is Vallecas, the home of Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid’s next destination as per the La Liga calendar. The Estadio de Vallecas is famed as one the Spain’s more difficult stadiums for away sides to perform at, but as the league leaders, Real Madrid will gun for nothing short of a win tomorrow.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men enter the game on Sunday with a five-point lead at the top of the table. With five wins in their last six games across all competitions, they also have the momentum on their side.
Their opponents, meanwhile, are not on quite similar terms based on form. Rayo Vallecano have won just five of their 24 league games this season and have scored just 21 times in that duration. Moreover, they currently sit in 14th place on the standings, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Rayo Vallecano vs Real Madrid.
Test for the attack
Very few teams have been able to avoid the wrath of Real Madrid this season. The men in white have come out on top in most of the clashes that they have played across all competitions, winning 100% of the UCL games and 19 of their 24 games in La Liga.
Rayo Vallecano is one of the few teams that has managed to take points off the leaders this season, and that goes a long way in establishing their defensive supremacy and resilience this term.
When Vallecano visited the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this season, they ground out a 0-0 draw. Notably, they are the only team other than Atletico Madrid this season to take points away from Real Madrid at home.
Los Blancos created several chances on the night and even missed two big chances. However, the truth behind the statistics is that Rayo Vallecano’s defence was on point, with Stole Dimitrievski dishing out a clinic in goal.
Heading into tomorrow’s clash, all eyes will thus be on the attack. Will Real Madrid’s dynamic forward unit succeed in getting past the defensive unit that plagued them back in November?
Champion worthy team
Everything about Ancelotti’s side this season screams of the word champion. After all, they have made it look ridiculously easy to drop high-class performances week after week, all while battling with debilitating hurdles along the way.
Purely from a fitness perspective, the 2023-24 campaign has been far from simple for Los Blancos. Having lost three players to ACL injuries in addition to the regular list of shorter injuries players have suffered, the manager has never had the entire squad at his disposal.
Yet, the players drop sensational performances whenever called on. Be it in their niche position or a completely alien one in that, every player donning the Real Madrid crest this season has delivered beyond expectations. That, if anything, is the mark of a champion unit.
The Merengues showed their grit and determination to take down Girona by a 4-0 scoreline earlier this month before pulling away with a tight, yet well-fought 1-0 win over RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League.
They head into tomorrow’s clash riding on the same momentum, knowing full well that every win from this point only engraves their name deeper on the league trophy. As long as the fire continues to burn in them, it will take something very special to take apart this Real Madrid unit.
Nearly at the end of the tunnel
Of all the dilemmas Carlo Ancelotti has faced over the course of the season, his recent defensive crisis was the most serious by far. The manager was pushed into a situation where he had no fit centre-backs to call on, forcing him to start Dani Carvajal and Aurelien Tchouameni in defence.
Not many expected the same game to turn out to be Real Madrid’s best showing of the season, and though both makeshift defenders put in enormous shifts, Nacho Fernandez’s return for the next game came as a welcome arrival.
The Spaniard is fit for tomorrow’s clash and will be joined by Aurelien Tchouameni once again, for Antonio Rudiger is yet to receive the medical all-clear. Considering that the German is expected to be fit in time for Real Madrid’s next league clash, tomorrow could be the last time the French midfielder is forced to play out of position in defence.
Needless to say, this can only be described as the light at the end of a long and winding tunnel. Tchouameni put in a tremendous shift to ensure that the handicap did not affect Real Madrid’s season, and the manager will be delighted to see that the days with two fit central defenders are not far away.