Real Madrid would have hoped for better circumstances leading into a clash as important as Wednesday’s.
The team had a shaky outing against Celta Vigo at the weekend, and three penalties in their favour helped them secure the three points. Moreover, the 4-0 drubbing to Barcelona is still fresh in the players’ minds.
With the league title almost secured, Ancelotti’s side now place their complete focus on the UEFA Champions League. Los Blancos face Chelsea in the quarterfinals, and the first leg will be at Stamford bridge.
Last season, it was the London-based side that ended Real Madrid’s run in the Champions League with a 3-1 win on aggregate in the semifinals. Less than a year later, the men in white will look for redemption. Here is how Real Madrid could lineup against Chelsea.
La Liga’s player of the month for February, Thibaut Courtois will start in goal for Real Madrid. The Belgian has only conceded 0.6 goals per game in the UCL this season, making four saves per game. Moreover, he has four clean sheets in eight appearances. He will be one of the most vital players on the field as Chelsea look to capitalise on their home advantage.
David Alaba will take charge in central defense after a shaky display at the weekend. The Austrian international has been one of Ancelotti’s most trusted players this season and will look to prove his worth on the night.
Alaba will likely be paired with Eder Militao with whom he has struck up a great partnership. The Brazilian had an unbelievable performance against Celta Vigo, making four clearances, 2 interceptions, a tackle and a blocked shot.
Ferland Mendy is one of the most underrated players in the team, and his importance was revealed in the Clasico when the left flank fell apart in his absence. Up against the experienced Cesar Azpilicueta, Mendy will have to step up and breathe life into the left-wing.
The right-back position will be covered by Dani Carvajal. The Spanish international has started six of Real Madrid’s last eight UCL fixtures and averages 1.2 key passes per game. Yet, he will have to be cautious in the defensive part of his game as he has often given away penalties this season.
The midfield is one department where there is no doubt over the personnel. Madrid’s trio will be motivated to take revenge against a Chelsea midfield that trampled them last season.
Casemiro will start as the defensive midfielder at Stamford Bridge. The Brazilian averages 2.6 tackles, 1.3 interceptions, and 1.4 clearances per game in the UCL this season. With N’Golo Kante pulling the strings of the opposition’s midfield, the Brazilian will have his work cut out for him.
Luka Modric and Toni Kroos will complete the midfield on the night. The duo have 3 goals and eight assists among them this season in the League alone. The clash in London will largely be decided in the middle of the park, and the veterans will have to be at the top of their game to see their side through.
Karim Benzema scored two goals against Celta Vigo on his return from injury, proving to the world why he is one of the best strikers at the moment. He has already scored eight goals in the UCL this season. Moreover, it was his second-half hattrick that helped Ancelotti’s side qualify for the quarter-finals. Needless to say, the spotlight will be on the Frenchman.
Starting on the left wing will be Vinicius Jr. The Brazilian has had a relatively quiet two months and will be itching for one clutch performance to get him back on track. What better game to step up than the quarterfinals of the Champions League?
The final spot in the lineup will most likely be taken by Marco Asensio. While Rodrygo makes an equally strong case to start, the Spaniard’s ability to pull a goal out of nowhere will be given preference against Chelsea.
The first department to warrant changes will be the aging midfield, and Ancelotti could turn to Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga to make an impact.
Rodrygo will be a player to keep an eye out for as well. The Brazilian is expected to feature in the final 30 minutes, and his pace could be Chelsea’s undoing.
If Los Blancos manage to secure a lead, Nacho Fernandez will very likely come on to sit back and defend their advantage.
Three talking points ahead of RCD Mallorca vs Real Madrid
Real Madrid have seldom struggled against RCD Mallorca in recent years. The men in white have scored a whopping 15 goals in their last four games against the Palma-based side and their last loss versus them came back in 2019.
If this season’s numbers are anything to go by, however, it would be wrong to overlook Javier Aguirre’s side. Mallorca have won seven of their nineteen La Liga games so far and sit in tenth place with 25 points.
While they have not scored a lot this campaign, they have conceded the fourth-least goals in the Spanish top flight and have an excellent defensive record.
Real Madrid play Mallorca before Barcelona’s game on Sunday and have a chance to reduce the deficit at the top of the table to two points temporarily if they can win at Son Moix.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Mallorca vs Real Madrid.
1. Tchouameni time again?
Aurelien Tchouameni spent close to a month on the sidelines after hobbling off injured in Real Madrid’s clash against Villarreal last month.
In the defensive midfielder’s absence, Carlo Ancelotti was forced to patch the void with unconventional options including Dani Ceballos, Eduardo Camavinga and Toni Kroos as the pivot.
The Frenchman finally made his awaited comeback to the squad in the team’s game against Valencia midweek. As he was returning from a relatively long time on the sidelines, Ancelotti preferred to have him start on the bench.
Tchouameni eventually entered the field in the 66th minute of the game when Toni Kroos asked to be substituted out for precaution. In his 24 minutes on the field, the youngster was almost flawless with 97% passes completed and 100% accurate long balls.
As Los Blancos gear up to play their second game in three days, the time could be right to re-incorporate the 23-year-old into the starting lineup. After all, Tchouameni has been one of Real Madrid’s most consistent players this season and it is glaringly clear that they have missed him in recent weeks.
2. Two more casualties
The men in white produced 90 minutes of high-quality football against Los Che on Thursday and reduced the gap with Barcelona to a mere five points. However, the cost of the win was far more than what the manager would have liked to pay.
In return for the three points, Real Madrid saw Karim Benzema and Eder Militao leave the field with injuries to rub salt into Ancelotti’s fresh wounds.
The captain is expected to miss the next two games at least, leaving his team once again without a central striker. In Benzema’s absence, Ancelotti will have to put on his thinking hat and field a forward line that not only creates threats but also has the cutting edge to convert them.
Militao is also unavailable for Sunday’s game. With the Brazilian centre-back ruled out, Real Madrid will likely field a combination of Antonio Rudiger and Nacho Fernandez against Mallorca. After all, David Alaba is also returning fresh from injury and might not be fit to start the game.
3. Can Camavinga convince again?
It is almost criminal that a club of Real Madrid’s stature do not have a natural backup for the left-back position.
Ferland Mendy has been Ancelotti’s most preferred position in the player throughout the season. David Alaba was seen as a possible backup option, and though the Austrian International is capable of playing that role, he does not fancy the left-back position anymore.
When Mendy limped off injured in Real Madrid’s game against Atletico Madrid, Eduardo Camavinga thus emerged as a surprise option to fill his shoes. The youngster started the next two games at left-back and did a reasonable job, even earning praise from the manager.
With Tchouameni back running for the Merengues, the left-back role is the only available vacancy for the French International to claim a starting spot.
With Alaba returning, if Camavinga wishes for continuity as a starter, he must produce another exceptional display on Sunday and stake claim as the left-back until Mendy returns.