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Nacho, Kroos start in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could line up against Barcelona



Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

After winning La Liga and the UEFA Champions League last season, Carlo Ancelotti is under huge pressure this term as Real Madrid seem to have fallen off their stride.

They are trailing Barcelona in two competitions, for example – nine points below them in the league and holding a 1-0 deficit in the Copa del Rey semi-finals.

However, they have the chance to start making amends as early as tomorrow as Barcelona host them at Camp Nou for the fourth El Clasico of the season. The Catalans have won two of the last three this season, and seem confident enough to go three for four now.

To Ancelotti’s benefit, though, he has the entire squad barring one player fit for the clash in David Alaba. With so many options and tactics to explore, Madrid Universal looks at how Los Blancos could lineup tomorrow.


Thibaut Courtois has played just 19 games this season, keeping six clean sheets in the process. He will be looking for his seventh tomorrow starting in goal.

There should only be one doubt in defence for Ancelotti — at left-back. However, after two impressive shifts in that position in the two games against Liverpool, Nacho should get the nod ahead of the recently returned Ferland Mendy.

Mr. Reliable (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

The same duties will be carried out by Dani Carvajal on the right, while Eder Militao and Antonio Rudiger star in central defence.

Ancelotti was quick to jump to Luka Modric and Toni Kroos‘ defence in the pre-game press conference. “I am surprised when people doubt Modric and Kroos because they are the best,” he said.

The duo should get the nod in midfield, with Eduardo Camavinga hoping to put the ghosts of his previous Clasico behind him, starting as the No. 6.

Federico Valverde will act as the fourth midfielder in this lineup, but he will be starting as the right-winger in attack.

Karim Benzema has been given the medical green light to participate in the Clasico after picking up a knock against Liverpool while scoring. The Frenchman has two goals in three games against Barcelona this season, and will be looking to add to his tally.

Vinicius Jr will be his partner in crime, but his task will be infinitely tougher with Ronald Araujo likely starting as the right-back again. The Brazilian has not found a way past the Uruguayan in the last two Clasicos.

Vinicius · Benzema · Valverde
Kroos · Camavinga · Modric
Nacho · Rudiger · Militao · Carvajal


Ferland Mendy will be an option off the bench for Ancelotti after missing the last two and a half months due to injury. The Frenchman is in the travelling squad for the game.

Lucas Vazquez could be called on to replace Dani Carvajal on the right to add offensive depth to the flank. Rodrygo, too, is an option, especially if Madrid trail at any point in the game.

Dani Ceballos and Aurelien Tchouameni could change the midfield for the better in any scenario in the game, with the former putting in an excellent cameo against Liverpool as well.

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Goals, energy, leadership: Three things Bellingham can offer to Real Madrid



Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

Real Madrid have been notoriously heavy spenders in the summer transfer market in the past but have not spent an awful lot over the last few seasons due to financial restrictions and their team finding its peak at the right time.

Real Madrid did shell out close to €100 million for Aurelien Tchouameni last year, and got Eduardo Camavinga in the summer of 2021 for around €400 million, too.

It does seem like they have a huge summer planned ahead of them, though. The club plans to splash some cash on multiple positions, including centre-forward, right-wing, central midfield, and across the defence.

Some targets are laid out for these positions, with Kylian Mbappe naturally being on the list.

However, one definite target for Madrid that’s been well-established already is Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham. His price tag is set at around €100-140 million, and Los Blancos are among the teams leading the race for his signature, alongside Manchester City and Liverpool.

The Englishman has an obviously high ceiling and is already among the best players in his position in Europe. Moreover, he adds depth across various skillsets and attributes that Real Madrid currently lack or will lack as the clock marches on.

Madrid Universal explores three different things Bellingham can bring to the table for an already talented Galacticos side.

Goals from midfield

Despite not playing an advanced role, Bellingham is a rather experienced poacher in the box. This comes with his thorough understanding of offensive routines, and timing his runs to perfection in the box.

Being 6’1″ and physically gifted, the teenager can attack crosses and passes into the box with ease. He boasts of a rather impressive leap as well, which was more than visible during the World Cup, when he opened the scoring against Iran.

The English midfielder has scored four goals in the league for Dortmund, and has accumulated an xG of 5.25 across the season. That is nearly two more than Madrid’s highest scoring midfielder – Luka Modric.

Currently, Madrid’s goals are rather lopsidedly dependent on the forward line, with Toni Kroos and Modric just chipping in with a combined six goals in the league out of a possible 51.

While both players, and Camavinga, are adept at shooting from range, neither quite provide the box threat or the third-man runs Madrid are currently craving for.

Goal machine. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Once Karim Benzema or Vinicius Jr are boxed out of the game, Carlo Ancelotti’s side struggle with ideas, and are often stuck in a pattern of crossing and hoping for the best.

And even with that, Bellingham could prove to be an excellent solution to their problems, coming up with late runs into the box and attacking crosses and loose balls.

Youthful energy

Far too many times this season, Ancelotti has been criticised for using Modric and Kroos in the same midfield. Especially when their bench holds the likes of Camavinga, Dani Ceballos, and sometimes even Federico Valverde.

However, it is clear that these players have been delegated to certain roles in midfield. Camavinga and Tchouameni shuffle as pivot options, while Ceballos is called upon add more creativity in the centre of the park.

Bellingham, while far from the best ball retainer, certainly has energy and lungs for days. He can run from box to box, receive and turn in a crowded midfield, and chase the ball till the 90.

While they have Valverde in a similar mould, the Uruguayan has been tasked with running the right-wing more often than not, at least under Ancelotti. It will be interesting to see how another coach would utilise both players to their respective strengths should the transfer go through.

Long-term captaincy candidate

At 19, Bellingham has already shown signs of becoming a captain for any side he plays for, for years to come. He has donned the armband for Dortmund several times this season already, and was first awarded with it in October, becoming the youngest captain in Bundesliga history.

Captain material. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

Currently, he holds the position of third captain for Dortmund, behind Marco Reus and Mats Hummels, but has already held the armband multiple times, including twice in the UEFA Champions League.

While Madrid have a fair few leaders in their ranks, including and not limited to the likes of Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and David Alaba, Bellingham has clearly proved that he is not only capable of taking on a leadership role, but also spearheading any side for years to come.

If all works out, the price tag of €120+ million will soon start to pale in comparison to the attributes he brings to the table alongside his unbelievably high ceiling and longevity.

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