There was nervousness aplenty before Real Madrid faced Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this week. Los Blancos were not only up against the defending champions of the UCL but also the team that knocked them out of the competition last year.
As always, it was Karim Benzema who stole the show. The Frenchman scored a second consecutive Champions League hat-trick and put his side in a commanding 3-1 lead ahead of the second leg on Tuesday.
However, Madrid have one more game to handle before the much-awaited return leg midweek. Carlo Ancelotti’s side face Getafe at home and must win to hold onto their 12 point lead on the standings.
Thibaut Courtois made four saves against his former club to help his side to a win last week. The Belgian has been in incredible form this season and will look to keep a clean sheet against the 14th placed side.
In central defence, David Alaba could be given a much-needed rest ahead of the decisive fixture. With La Liga almost sealed and delivered, the manager will look to take a few risks on the night.
In the Austrian’s absence, Nacho could start alongside Eder Militao. The Brazilian seemed to have picked up an injury against Chelsea but has fortunately not suffered anything serious. He will be ready to start on the night.
Daniel Carvajal will start at right-back after an impressive defensive show midweek. Ahead of the second leg, he will look to keep his good run of form.
The left-back position will be covered by Marcelo with Mendy absent from the squad list due to injury. The Brazilian is no longer the player he once used to be, but can still plug the hole against Getafe.
Needless to say, the matchup between the defender and Damian Suarez will be fascinating to watch.
In midfield, Real Madrid will see wholesale changes. Casemiro will be the only veteran midfielder to start on the night and will be tasked with holding the fortress against any counterattack.
Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are expected to start on the bench. The duo will have to feature extensively in Real Madrid’s next two games, i.e. against Chelsea and Sevilla. In their place, Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde could receive call-ups into the starting lineup.
Camavinga impressed the management and fans alike with his masterful performance against Real Sociedad last month.
Since then, he has seen regular playing time off the bench. Given that the manager does not have many options at his disposal, the 19-year-old could be part of the starting lineup on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Federico Valverde will stick to his usual role of dictating play and linking up in the final third.
In attack, Karim Benzema will start as the striker and look to extend his unreal goalscoring form. The veteran has scored 13 goals and provided four assists in his last seven games, a clear indication of what he means to the current team.
At this point, a rest could do more harm than good to the player by disturbing his seamless form.
Vincius Jr should start on the left wing and will be up against Djene. The Brazilian has slightly fizzled out in recent months after a blistering start to the season. Heading into the most critical phase of the campaign, Vinicius will look to return to his imperial best.
The final name on the starting lineup will likely be Marco Asensio. The Spanish player has been linked with a move to AC Milan in recent days and will look to prove his worth to the manager.
At the same time, it is a great chance for Asensio to attract suitors and give them a glimpse of his brilliance.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia
For all the institutional and sporting catastrophes Valencia suffer from, they put up a resilient show against Real Madrid last month and held them to a draw in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.
Having fired Gennaro Gattuso less than 48 hours ago, Los Che will be under the command of an interim coach at Santiago Bernabeu in the hope of repeating their feat from Saudi Arabia.
After all, they are struggling this season with just 20 points in 18 league appearances.
Valencia may not be the top team it used to be a couple of seasons ago, but there is a fighting spirit to the squad that makes them special.
As Real Madrid looks to make amends for their dropped points against La Real, some important considerations cross the manager’s mind regarding the clash against Los Che.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.
1. More names at Ancelotti’s disposal
Real Madrid’s long injury list has been a thorn in Carlo Ancelotti’s feet for a long time now. While the manager has had close to five players unavailable through fitness concerns, two names were considered irreplaceable.
Daniel Carvajal is the first on that list. The Spanish International’s presence gave the club hope after Lucas Vazquez’s injury last month, but almost as if planned, the 30-year-old immediately suffered a blow in training and was forced to sit out.
For four games, Ancelotti was thus forced to field Nacho Fernandez as his right-back. The centre-back did a good job at covering out of position, however, will be pushed back to the bench on Thursday as Los Blancos celebrate the return of Carvajal.
The defender is not the only one making his way back, as Aurelien Tchouameni also received the medical all-clear earlier this week.
The French pivot hobbled off an hour into Real Madrid’s league clash against Villarreal in the first week of January and has been sidelined for close to a month.
His absence pushed his coach to try numerous permutations in midfield, but it was finally Eduardo Camavinga who stamped his authority on the position.
With Tchouameni back roaring, his place in the starting lineup seems to be written in stone. One can expect the Frenchman to be deployed alongside Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos for his return to action on Thursday.
2. Concern shifts from right to left-back
The Merengues will finally have a natural right-back available to play against Valencia midweek. However, that does not signal the end of the Italian tactician’s trouble-riddles period.
Just when one full-back position returned to a state of normalcy, Real Madrid now have a crisis at left-back.
Ferland Mendy picked up a thigh injury earlier this week and will miss the team’s next two months of action at least. To say that this is a big blow to the club’s plans would be an understatement, for Mendy was the only natural left-back available in the squad.
David Alaba would appear to be the best-placed alternative, but the Austrian is ruled out through injury himself. Placed at a lack of options, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference earlier today that Eduardo Camavinga would play there against Valencia.
The youngster has played in the defensive position earlier but will face the heat going up against Jose Luis Gaya at Santiago Bernabeu.
Given that Valencia’s right flank put up a memorable display when the two teams met last month, one can be certain that Camavinga’s performance can make or break Real Madrid’s night.
3. No margin for error
Less than halfway through the league season, Los Blancos already find themselves five points behind Barcelona. The wide gap is not a consequence of the defending champions’ poor form but the sheer consistency of Xavi Hernandez’s men, who cannot stop winning.
Having won the Supercopa de Espana last month, the Catalans are currently riding high on confidence. With their season heading from strength to strength, Real Madrid must hold on and wait for the right opportunity to topple the tables.
The Galacticos‘ draw against Real Sociedad added two points to the gap between the top two sides last week. At this stage, Ancelotti’s men cannot afford any further slip-ups for a larger gap would be too much for the men in white to compensate.
Every game henceforth will be a final for Real Madrid in La Liga. Three points are the bare minimum the club can walk away with from any fixture, and that mission will start from their game against Valencia.