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Modric, Militao to start in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could line up against Barcelona

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Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images

As the world gears up for the second official El Clasico of the season, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has a lot to ponder. Two primary concerns outline the Italian tactician’s approach to Sunday’s game – his team’s poor form and the unavailability of critical players through injury.

What the manager does have on his side, however, is the mentality of the team he has built. Rather than being a champion team, Real Madrid have proved over the past year to be a team of champions. Needless to say, the men in white will not allow any external factors to diminish their confidence or drive on the night.

Ahead of the clash later today, Madrid Universal brings you an overview of how Ancelotti can lineup his troops against Barcelona to maximise their output and clinch the title.

Starters

When nothing separated Real Madrid and Valencia at the end of 120 minutes, it was Thibaut Courtois who came up clutch in the penalty shootout to see his side progress. He will start in goal against FC Barcelona and look to carry forward his good record against the Catalans.

The injury to Lucas Vazquez in the previous encounter leaves Carlo Ancelotti with only one option at right-back – Dani Carvajal. The Spaniard will go up against Ousmane Dembele on Sunday and will have to be at his best to stop arguably Barcelona’s best player.

The central defence, again, is a no-brainer for the manager given David Alaba’s unavailability. With Eder Militao back in training normally, the Brazilian is expected to lead the Merengues’ defence alongside Antonio Rudiger.

Ferland Mendy will start at left-back and must take up an enhanced role in the attack. Los Blancos will be limited in their progression on the right wing owing to Dembele’s threat, thus putting the onus on Mendy to be the primary attacking full-back tonight.

Barcelona boast one of the world’s most technical midfield in the form of Pedri, Gavi, and Frenkie de Jong. One would thus expect Ancelotti to call up his veterans against Xavi’s side and use their experience to exploit the flaws in the young Catalan core.

Modric to return to the lineup (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

Luka Modric and Toni Kroos hence become guaranteed starters on the night. The German International will cover for the missing Tchouameni as the pivot while the 37-year-old wields his wand higher up on the field.

The third place in the middle of the park is expected to go to Federico Valverde. Notably, it was Real Madrid’s clash against Barcelona in the same competition last season that sparked the youngster’s magnificent run of form.

Vinicius Jr is the player with the most to prove on Sunday night. His recent form has been abysmal, analogous to his record in recent Clasicos. After two poor games in the past week, can the Brazilian strike gold in the final and silence his critics? Only time will tell.

The 22-year-old will play to the left of Karim Benzema, who will start as the centre-forward against Barcelona. After his ill-treatment in the World Cup, the Frenchman will be desperate to shine on the big games and prove his ability to his doubters. Clearly, it does not get bigger than El Clasico.

The final spot on the XI will go to the young Rodrygo Goes. Though not a regular starter, the Brazilian international has always delivered the promised impact when given the chance.

He shone brilliantly when he played against Xavi’s side earlier this season and even netted Real Madrid’s third goal in the game.

Substitutes

Carlo Ancelotti confirmed in his pre-match press conference that Eduardo Camavinga had recovered well from his fitness setback and confirmed his participation in the final. Given the impact the Frenchman brings as a substitute, he will certainly come onto the field for a cameo.

Nacho Fernandez could well come on in the final minutes of the game to relieve Eder Militao who is just returning from a mild injury. Marco Asensio could bring much-needed fresh legs into the game in the second half to improve the tempo and liven up the attack.

Eden Hazard has been far from the player initially expected at the time of his arrival. Yet, the manager could turn to him if the situation calls for an urgent goal in the dying minutes.

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Features

Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

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.

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