Real Madrid returned from international break over the weekend with the clash against Sevilla awaiting them in La Liga. Far from 100% both in terms of match sharpness and injuries, Carlo Ancelotti’s side had to return home with nothing more than a 1-1 draw.
They will be hoping to return to winning ways as they lock horns against Braga in their favourite competition, the UEFA Champions League. After two wins in the first two games, Madrid will travel to Portugal in midweek before taking on Barcelona on the weekend.
Ancelotti has already confirmed that he will not use the same starting lineup that came away with a point on the weekend, especially because some players are particularly fatigued after international duty.
“Rotations ahead of El Clásico? No but I won’t use the same XI we used vs Sevilla. I have to evaluate the players who are tired after the break, some took knocks against Sevilla… so we will see,” he said.
With one eye on El Clasico, this is how Madrid Universal believes Real Madrid will lineup against Braga tomorrow.
Defence: Nacho in for Alaba
Kepa Arrizabalaga expressed his desire to continue at the Santiago Bernabeu beyond this season, but will understandably face a tough time competing with Thibaut Courtois as the first-choice. He will, however, have his place cemented in goal tomorrow.
David Alaba has just returned from injury, but was on the score sheet already vs Sevilla – finishing in his own net, unfortunately. He did have a solid performance, though, but could be rested in favour of Nacho to keep him fit for El Clasico.
Antonio Rudiger should retain his position in central defence alongside the captain, with Fran Garcia expected to replace Ferland Mendy as the left-back. Daniel Carvajal will likely continue as the right-back.
Midfield: Modric, Camavinga return
We expect changes in midfield, as well, especially since Toni Kroos played the entire 90 minutes against Sevilla. The German’s ability to control the game will be priceless vs Barcelona, and as such, he could be rested from the get-go tomorrow.
In his place, UCL maestro Luka Modric is expected to return to midfield duty, likely paired up with Eduardo Camavinga, who will play on the left side of the trident.
Aurelien Tchouameni was far from his best on the weekend, but Federico Valverde needs some rest after a hectic international break for Uruguay, playing 90 minutes each against Colombia and Brazil. As such, the Frenchman should continue as the defensive midfielder.
Jude Bellingham will predictably be the final piece of the puzzle in this midfield, starting as the no.10-cum-false 9 role he has made his own this season with ten goals and three assists across La Liga and the UCL.
Attack: Vinicius rests
The attack is where things get tricky for Ancelotti. Both his star forwards, Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr have encountered a bit of a stale run in front of goal.
Further, both played extensively for Brazil during the international break and could use some rest before the crucial part of the season begins.
However, MU predict Vinicius will be rested tomorrow over Rodrygo as the former has recently returned from injury. Further, facing a relatively weaker opposition could be the key to break the latter’s rut.
The final piece of the puzzle should be Joselu, who is averaging a goal every 107 minutes in the league, having netted five times already. He has also provided two assists and will be looking to open his account in the UCL tomorrow.
Rodrygo · Joselu
Camavinga · Tchouameni · Modric
Garcia · Nacho · Rudiger · Carvajal
With this many rotations, some of the first-team players are likely to come on at some point during the game. This list would start with Vinicius Jr, who will probably be the first name off the bench.
Federico Valverde is an invaluable asset for Carlo Ancelotti as one of the most complete box-to-box midfielders in Europe. The Uruguayan will also definitely see some minutes, if he is in fact benched in the first place.
Toni Kroos and Brahim Diaz will also be competing for a spot, with the latter looking to make an impression at Real Madrid while the squad is running thin.
Daniel Carvajal could also use some rest, and if he starts again, he could be pave the way at some point in the game for Lucas Vazquez.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli | UEFA Champions League
Fresh off their 3-0 win against Cadiz at the weekend, Real Madrid return to the field late on Wednesday night to take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A lot has changed since the two teams last met. Napoli sacked Rudi Garcia not so long ago and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new manager. The Italian got off to a great start in the form of a 2-1 win over Atalanta in his first game in the position.
Yet, he will face his first big test in the form of Real Madrid later tomorrow. The Naples-based side will have a lot to prove to their manager and the fans on the night, but it is clear that the Merengues will not treat the fixture lightly either.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli.
The headlining clash
The UEFA Champions League leaves fans spoilt for choice, for it offers the highest quality of football between some of the world’s best teams on a regular basis. The headlining fixtures begin as early as the group stages and only grow in promise as the season progresses.
When Real Madrid were drawn into Group C in this year’s UCL, all eyes were on the team that would take the next highest-seeded spot. It was eventually Napoli that made the cut, making the Spanish-Italian clash the group’s most-awaited game.
Since then, the two teams have already faced off once at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Matchday two of the competition. The clash was evenly balanced for the most part, but Jude Bellingham’s masterclass enabled a narrow 3-2 Real Madrid win.
Close to two months on, the two European giants face off once more, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot help but call the upcoming clash the title clash of the matchday, especially considering the two team’s recent history and what rides on the result.
Real Madrid’s place in the Round of 16 was confirmed after their win over SC Braga in the last matchday. Napoli, however, are yet to secure such confirmation and a defeat tomorrow could potentially reduce their gap over Braga to one point.
Napoli thus need the win to maintain security over their qualification, while Real Madrid hope to cement their place as group leaders with a win. With both teams having a lot riding on the result, the game will have no dearth of life on the night.
Carlo Ancelotti spent many a day in the recent international break plotting means to overcome his midfield crisis. After all, he was without the services of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga had also suffered a gruesome injury on national team duty.
The manager thus deployed his best midfield quartet for the clash against Cadiz, hoping to improve the harmony between the four stars. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham all started but the situation got ugly after the 38-year-old walked off injured in the second half.
Ancelotti thus now faces a bottleneck in midfield. Modric has been excluded from the squad after his latest injury, leaving the manager with just four options from the first-team in midfield. Needless to say, all four players are expected to start in Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond formation on the night.
Bellingham will be deployed as the attacking midfielder while Kroos is likely to play as the pivot. The two interiors will be Dani Ceballos and Valverde, the former of whom has not started a single game all season.
The situation in midfield is thus grim, for the manager can not afford any further injuries in the department.
The man in form
The beginning of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 campaign was all about Jude Bellingham. The Englishman could not stop scoring goals for fun across all competitions and single-handedly won games even in situations where all hope seemed lost.
Rodrygo has stolen the limelight from the English protege in recent weeks, and his resurgence could not come at a better time for Ancelotti. After all, the Brazilian was enduring one of his worst-ever starts to a season but managed to find his footing exactly after Bellingham suffered the blow to his shoulder.
The 22-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in Real Madrid’s recent games. His purple patch began against Braga when he scored once and assisted once to give Los Blancos three critical points.
In the team’s subsequent clash against Valencia, Rodrygo stole the show. In 90 minutes against Los Che, the youngster scored two goals and provided as many assists in the team’s 5-1 win. He added another two goals and an assist to his tally in Real Madrid’s most recent clash against Cadiz.
Needless to say, the spotlight will shine brightly on Rodrygo in tomorrow’s game. As the team’s most in-form player, the onus will be on him to find the required breakthroughs on the night and lead the attack from the front in Vinicius Jr.’s absence.