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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

Real Madrid vs Athletic Club: End of an era, farewells, tight race for second place

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Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

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?

Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

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

Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

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

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

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.

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