Real Madrid have only played one game this season but have already sealed their first trophy. With the UEFA Super Cup in the bag, the eyes now turn to one of the biggest objectives- to defend the La Liga title.
Barcelona splashed the cash in the summer transfer window to assemble a squad that can compete on all fronts. Their signings make them a daunting opposition, but Real Madrid have something that cannot be purchased- a winning mentality.
Even from the lowest of lows, Los Blancos found ways to manoeuvre themselves to success last season. It was their champion mentality that won them the Champions League against all odds.
Heading into the new season, Carlo Ancelotti has two new faces on the team. Aurelien Tchouameni and Antonio Rudiger have adjusted well to their new home so far and add a new dimension to Real Madrid’s squad depth.
The Champions begin their title defence against UD Almeria at the Estadio del Mediterraneo on Sunday. Keeping in mind the vital balance between veterans and youth for the new season, this is how we predict Los Blancos will line up for their La Liga curtain raiser.
Fresh off his nominations for the UEFA Best men’s player and the Ballon d’Or, Thibaut Courtois will unquestionably start on the night. The Belgian’s stellar form was the foundation of Real Madrid’s success last season.
In central defence, we can expect a pairing of David Alaba and Eder Militao. While the arrival of Antonio Rudiger does complicate the selection in central defence, the Austrian-Brazilian combination once again proved their mettle with a solid show midweek.
Daniel Carvajal has been omitted from the squad list out of precaution. The defender is coming back from injury and Ancelotti prefers to wait rather than risk his star full-back.
In light of the veteran’s absence, Lucas Vasquez will likely start as the right-back on the night. The Spaniard has proven to be a reliable backup fullback last season and will look to improve the defensive aspect of his game.
The centre-backs should be flanked on their left by Ferland Mendy. The French international has come under severe criticism recently for his lacklustre displays in the final third.
Ancelotti will have to be more conservative with his veteran midfielders this season. Given their age, it would be in the club’s best interests to preserve the golden trio for big games.
Against Almeria, Luka Modric could start on the bench with Eduardo Camavinga taking his place in midfield. The youngster will be accompanied by Toni Kroos, who was phenomenal during pre-season.
The third place in midfield should be occupied by Casemiro. With his place in the starting XI under threat after Tchouameni’s arrival, one can expect a more determined presence from the Brazilian this season.
Moving to the forward line, two of the three starting names are engraved in stone. Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema were arguably the engine of Real Madrid’s success last season and will look to pick up where they left off in La Liga. The French international now holds the responsibility of captaincy and must lead by example.
The final spot in the starting lineup will probably be taken by Marco Asensio. The winger has had a turbulent transfer window with his future up in a cloud of doubt, but against Ancelotti will want to go all guns blazing against Almeria.
The new signings played only five minutes each in the UEFA Super cup and will hope to have more involvement in the opening matchday of La Liga.
Antonio Rudiger could replace Eder Militao in the second half, and Casemiro will, almost certainly, make way for Aurelien Tchouameni.
Federico Valverde was all over the field against Eintracht Frankfurt. His versatility is undoubtedly a gift to Ancelotti’s plans. The Uruguayan will almost surely come on as a substitute for Toni Kroos in the second period.
It is impossible to keep a player of Luka Modric‘s quality on the bench for long. The Croatian could feature if the team trail in the game and require his experience.
Ancelotti confirmed that Eden Hazard would play a bigger role in the team this season, and we can see him come on to replace one of the forwards in the second half.
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.