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Modric, Valverde start in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could line up against Manchester City

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Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid might not have played in La Liga yesternight, but Barcelona’s loss against Rayo Vallecano certainly puts them in a favourable position for the title.

All they need to do is avoid defeat against Espanyol on the weekend, and Carlo Ancelotti would become the first manager to win a league title in all top five leagues. However, he has other business to cater to before that.

Real Madrid travel to northwest of England to take on Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium for the Champions League semi-finals. It is a replay of 2019/20 round of 16 where City emerged victorious.

While it would not be farfetched to consider Madrid as the underdogs in this matchup, they have used that title in the previous two rounds to pull off brilliant comebacks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea.

Both teams are, however, heading into this tie on an impressive run of form. Los Blancos defeated Osasuna 1-3 away from home, and had Karim Benzema not missed two penalties, it could have been much worse.

City did reach the 5-1 scoreline Madrid were aiming for, with a tremendous performance against Watford. Gabriel Jesus scored four and gave an assist in what was one of the best individual displays of the season.

Ahead of this mouthwatering clash, Ancelotti does not have all players fully fit. While they are travelling with a stacked squad, players like David Alaba and Casemiro are coming off injuries. How does that translate into the starting XI? Madrid Universal takes a look.

The starters

Alaba may have been injured through the week, but his presence in the Madrid backline is too important to ignore. He should be one of the two centre-backs in the defensive quartet, with Eder Militao likely to be the other one.

These two will be screening Thibaut Courtois, who starts in the six-yard box. The Belgian has been one of the best goalkeepers in Europe this season, and single-handedly, can make or break the game for Madrid.

While there are some concerns over Ferland Mendy‘s fitness, the Frenchman is too crucial to start from the bench in such a crucial tie. He will, in all likelihood, start at left-back.

Dani Carvajal has shown clear signs of weakness in the Champions League against the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Timo Werner in consecutive ties, but will get the nod at right-back over Lucas Vazquez.

The midfield picks itself, especially in such a high-stakes game. Luka Modric was rested for the Osasuna clash, but should return, taking up the right slot as part of the trident.

Godric. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

Toni Kroos came off the bench, while Casemiro was out of the game due to an injury. They will accompany Modric in an attempt to break City’s total control.

No doubts about the cente-forward as Karim Benzema will look to extend his incredible run of form. He has scored 12 goals in the UCL this season, with seven of them coming in the knockouts.

His understanding with Vinicius Jr. will be key in this game, especially with Kyle Walker injured. The Brazilian starts on the left of the front-three, and Federico Valverde will be the final piece of the puzzle at right-wing.

Predicted Real Madrid XI:

Vinicius · Benzema · Valverde
Kroos · Casemiro · Modric
Mendy · Alaba · Militao · Carvajal
Courtois

The bench

Since Casemiro is not fit completely fit for the game tomorrow, one could expect Eduardo Camavinga to take his place in defensive midfield. The Frenchman has done an impressive job filling in for the Brazilian whenever possible.

Rodrygo has made his presence known for Ancelotti the previous few weeks, with four goal contributions in the last four games. He was key off the bench vs Chelsea and should get another chance tomorrow.

Vazquez could get some minutes replacing Carvajal, while Marco Asensio is a helpful presence to have off the bench, especially if Madrid is chasing the game.

Dani Ceballos‘ stocks have risen recently, and he could get some minutes to make an impact against City’s dominant midfield.

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Features

Real Madrid World Cup Spotlight: Vinicius, Rodrygo, Militao advance to the Round of 16

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Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The second round of group-stage fixtures in Qatar came to a close on Monday in what was a day of very high-quality football. The first two games alone accounted for 11 goals in what was the highest tally in a day in this edition.

The first game saw Serbia and Cameroon face off in an epic clash that saw no end of twists and turns. The game ended 3-3 with the teams sharing the points.

The next game saw South Korea go 2-0 down quickly against Ghana before coming back in the second half. However, the African side scored once again on demand to steer themselves to a win.

Brazil needed a late winner from Casemiro to break the deadlock against Switzerland in the third game and secured their spot in the Round of 16.

The last game between Portugal and Uruguay was expected to be a match of equals. That perception quickly changed when the Europeans produced a dominant performance and killed off the game with two goals.

Madrid Universal brings you an overview of the performances of Real Madrid players on Monday.

Vinicius Jr (Brazil vs Switzerland)

Over the past few years, Vinicius Jr has carved out a reputation for being a thorn in defenders’ feet, be it with his world-class dribbling or his antics. As one of the best young wingers in business, he stands out in chance creation even when faced against the best in the business.

However, it appeared like Silvan Widmer had Vinicius in his pockets for large parts of the game. The two created a fabulous battle down Brazil’s left-wing but it was often the Real Madrid player who came second best.

The youngster scored a goal in the 66th minute with a perfectly placed shot after beating his man. However, it was ruled out for an offside intervention after the VAR review.

Apart from sporadic moments of magic, Vinicius did not offer much. He had just one shot on target, completed just one of his five attempted dribbles and missed one big chance. Moreover, he did not complete a single cross accurately and lost more than 50% of his duels. But he was involved in the buildup to the goal.

Eder Militao (Brazil vs Switzerland)

After spending 90 minutes on the bench against Serbia, Militao received his first World Cup start on Monday night. However, the manager deployed him as the right-back as opposed to his usual position in central defence.

Despite playing in a foreign position, the Brazilian was convincing in defence and stopped the likes of Ruben Vargas and Ricardo Rodriguez.

Understandably, Militao did not look to burst into the final third and create chances like a traditional full-back but was still heavily linked in the build-up play. He completed 87% of his attempted passes, five out of eight long balls and even provided a key pass.

Rodrygo Goes (Brazil vs Switzerland)

Rodrygo impressed after coming on from the bench (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images)

After Brazil’s underwhelming first half, the manager turned to Rodrygo at the start of the second period. The youngster came on for Lucas Paqueta at halftime in an attempt to ramp up Selecao’s threat in the final third and the decision paid off.

It was the young sensation who assisted Casemiro’s goal in the 83rd minute. Receiving the ball from Vinicius, Rodrygo just flicked the ball away from defenders and into the feet of Casemiro to set up an ideal half-volley.

Apart from his assist, the Real Madrid man came painfully close to scoring in the 94th minute only to be denied by Manuel Akanji. He had one shot on target, one blocked, and a key pass.

Federico Valverde (Uruguay vs Portugal)

Uruguay have perhaps been the most disappointing team in the World Cup this year. The squad is filled with quality players from Rodrigo Bentancur and Darwin Nunez to Luis Suarez, Federico Valverde and Diego Godin.

The South Americans once again dished out an average game against Portugal, but it was Valverde who seemed the most inspiring in the Uruguayan team.

The in-form midfielder did not pose much threat to the goal on the night but worked like a machine off the ball. He recorded three interceptions, and two tackles, and won two tackles against Fernando Santos’ side in addition to a key pass and a big chance created. 

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