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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 1-0 Sevilla: Player Ratings

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Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Following Barcelona’s convincing 4-0 win against Getafe yesterday, the onus was on Real Madrid to reinstate the eight-point gap between the sides as they hosted Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu today.

Lucas Vazquez opened the scoring for los blancos after ten minutes, but the goal was controversially disallowed for a foul on Youssef En-Nesyri in the build-up.

Madrid found it difficult to unlock Sevilla’s defence after that, with the first-half ending 0-0 after just one shot on target from both teams combined.

Madrid started the second 45 with more intent, creating some better scoring opportunities, but were left without success until an unbelievable effort from Luka Modric scathed the post and went in.

Sergio Ramos put in a wonderful performance on his return to the Santiago Bernabeu for Sevilla, but it was not enough as Madrid escaped with all three points and an eight-point lead on top of the table.

Andriy Lunin: 8

Was not called into action in the first-half, and was pretty much faultless in possession. But made an incredible save off Romero’s effort in the second half and was extremely proactive collecting crosses, too. Game-changing.

Lucas Vazquez: 7

Did a good job overlapping and was unlucky that his goal was disallowed. Did well to deal with Romero and Ocampos defensively.

Antonio Rudiger: 6.5

Rudiger was lucky that Romero and En-Nesyri did not convert their efforts from close range, as he often left space in behind. Went up to attack with the score at 0-0, too, but came back fruitless.

Nacho: 6

Was substituted off after 75 minutes after an mostly average display. Again, lucky that he was not punished for the space he left behind.

Ferland Mendy: 7

A few decent moves for Mendy today, but for the most part, his inability to overlap properly gave Vinicius too much to do.

Federico Valverde: 8

By far the most active midfielder today, Valverde was everywhere. Ran the show for Madrid, both in possession and stopping counter attacks before they even started. Missed the easiest chance of the game, though.

Aurelien Tchouameni: 6.5

Did his job as the 6 well, kept the game ticking and kept finding the spare man in midfield. Moved back to the defence eventually, and came away with a clean sheet.

Toni Kroos: 7

With Madrid struggling to break through Sevilla’s defence, Kroos was tasked with a lot of deep progression. Created some tame chances here and there, but failed to find properly find a man through.

Brahim Diaz: 7.5

Kept Kike Salas and Ocampos on their toes, making some tremendous solo runs from deep, but was often left without support. Created a brilliant chance for Valverde, that was scuffed.

Rodrygo: 7

Did not take many risks in possesion, but was crucial in Vinicius and Brahim finding space on the wing by offering support.

Vinicius Jr: 7.5

With the Sevilla defence looking very organised, the onus was on Vinicius to create something out of nothing. He attempted a few different things, including flicking the ball over players and attempting shots from distance, but all unsuccessful.

Has to be credited for the effort, though, especially with the rest of the team lacking.

SUBSTITUTES

Luka Modric: 8.5

Super-sub Luka Modric coming in clutch for Madrid today with his wonder goal from outside the box. Was also brilliant in possession, increasing the tempo of the game.

Dani Ceballos: N/A

Alvaro Rodriguez: N/A

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