Modric benched, Vazquez starts in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could lineup vs Almeria
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.
Real Madrid vs Athletic Club: End of an era, farewells, tight race for second place
Real Madrid will walk down the tunnel of Santiago Bernabeu one last time this season on Sunday night. The men in white are pitted against Athletic Club on their final match-day, and the game will not be an easy affair by any means.
The Basque side sit in seventh place on the league standings with 50 points in 37 appearances. However, their qualification for the UEFA Conference League is in danger with Osasuna lurking close behind with an equal number of points.
Anything less than a win could prove insufficient for the visitors and it is clear that they arrive at Santiago Bernabeu with nothing less than a win on their agenda. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao.
1. The end of an era for the number 9 shirt?
The grey area around Karim Benzema’s future has only widened in recent days. From a situation where his continuity at Real Madrid was taken for granted, it did not take long for the Frenchman’s story to enter a steep deviation.
An economically tempting proposal from Saudi Arabia had Benzema seriously contemplating a move away from Santiago Bernabeu, and reports stated that his departure from the Spanish club was close to complete.
The world, thus, looked in anticipation of his next official interaction with the media. The Ballon d’Or winner publicly addressed the topic for the first time earlier this week, and it is safe to say that his words gave nothing away.
Benzema neither confirmed nor completely refuted the rumours of his exit to the media. His situation is balanced on the blade of a knife and could tip in either direction.
In that sense, there is a good chance that tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu is Karim Benzema’s final game for Real Madrid. If the striker does choose to change loyalties, it would mark the end of an era for the team’s number nine position.
It has been over a decade since the Frenchman took over the prestigious kit. He has played 647 games for the club so far in his career, scoring a stunning 353 goals in the process. Of them, 98 have been match-winning contributions.
2. A day of farewells
Earlier today, Real Madrid announced the departure of Marco Asensio from the club. The Spanish winger appears set to sign for PSG for the 2023-24 season and will bid adieu on Sunday. However, he will not be the only player playing his final game for the club tomorrow.
Nacho Fernandez has been a critical part of Real Madrid’s success in recent years but is another name close to sealing an exit. The defender is not satisfied with the playing time under his belt at the club and has not yet responded to the renewal offer on his table.
With his contract running out in less than 30 days, he appears closer to leaving than staying. One can expect an announcement from Nacho on Sunday night after the game at the Bernabeu, which could be his final game in white.
The situation with Dani Ceballos is quite similar. The Spanish midfielder is still undecided on his future, although there is still a slight chance he could continue at the club. Staying on the subject of players making their final appearance, however, he could be one on the list.
Away from the stories of incomplete renewal negotiations, Mariano Diaz is one player whose departure from the club is confirmed. Ferland Mendy, Jesus Vallejo, Alvaro Odriozola and Eden Hazard are some of the other candidates well-placed to make departures, although nothing can be said for sure.
3. A tight race for second place
There is not much to play for on Sunday night except for the emotional tag of it being the season’s final game. Yet, the men in white will not be without an objective against Athletic Club.
Los Blancos sit on 77 points in 37 league appearances this season and just have a one-point lead over third-placed Atletico Madrid. Needless to say, they must be vary of their position on the standings for any complacency could see them drop down the ladder.
Diego Simeone’s men take on fifth-placed Villarreal at the same time as Real Madrid’s game against Athletic Club. Even if Carlo Ancelotti’s men settle for a draw against the Basque side, the second place would be Atletico Madrid’s to lose.
With both games kicking off simultaneously, there will be nerves throughout the ninety minutes in Madrid. One can only hope for action-filled games to keep the anxiety and adrenaline high.