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Opinion: Ancelotti should start Real Madrid new signing ahead of Brazilian prodigy vs Barcelona

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Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid have sold dreams to fans for several transfer windows in a row in the form of Kylian Mbappe.

The Frenchman was close to signing for the record-UCL winners in the summer of 2022, but ended up signing a contract extension with PSG for two years, with the option to extend for another season.

If that was not enough of a blow for Real Madrid fans, they also ended up losing Karim Benzema in the summer of 2023 on a free transfer.

The striker was initially in talks to extend his contract for one final season but was lured away by Saudi Arabia through Al Ittihad, who were ready to make him one of the best-paid players in the world.

Many expected Real Madrid to go for Mbappe as a replacement during the same window, as the PSG forward publicly admitted he would not be extending his contract beyond 2024.

Unfortunately, though, the club decided against making another big splurge after signing Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund for €103 million.

Eventually, Madrid decided to bring in Brahim Diaz from AC Milan after his three-year loan stint. Joselu also joined him, on loan from Espanyol, and has done rather well so far against all odds.

The Spaniard has scored five goals and assisted two in ten appearances in La Liga while averaging around only 50 minutes per game.

Tomorrow, as Real Madrid take on Barcelona for the first El Clasico of the season, Joselu could be the key to a potential win. And this is why.

Massive help for Bellingham

Jude Bellingham has proven to be a game-changer for Carlo Ancelotti, scoring eight goals and assisting two in nine appearances so far in La Liga.

All this while playing essentially as an attacking midfielder behind two forwards – Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo, more often than not.

Bellingham has taken 22 shots so far this season, out of which 18 were from inside the box. He has converted eight of those chances, with six being high-xG shots (shots with more than .35 xG).

Bellingham, Joselu have struck up a good partnership. (Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

The Englishman does his best work in terms of output when given the license to make third man runs into the box, mostly unguarded. However, at 6’1″, he is able to get the better of most defenders inside the box when challenged, too.

Interestingly, five of Bellingham’s eight goals have come when Joselu was on the pitch, even though he has been partnered far more often with Rodrygo and Vinicius as a trio.

That is for a reason: Joselu provides more balance.

At 6’3″, Joselu is able to pin defenders back and act as the target for crosses, loose balls, and long passes. His ability to dominate physical duels means one of the centre-backs always has to mark him to nullify his presence.

With Rodrygo and Vinicius, though, the balance is not the same, as their presence inside the box can be nullified without a proper nine.

While Bellingham operates in a very advanced position, he does not quite boast of the anchor play of someone like Karim Benzema, who was able to bring Vinicius and Rodrygo into the game.

Joselu does not do that very well, either, but his ability to hold up defenders and act as a target means Bellingham gets a free run into the box more often than not.

With the Englishman being the most in-form scorer in the team right now, while Vinicius and Rodrygo underperform means Ancelotti must do everything to encourage his exploits.

It has been a difficult season for Rodrygo. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

The Barcelona context

Barcelona have some of the best aerial defenders in the world in the form of Ronald Araujo, Andreas Christensen, and Inigo Martinez. Luckily for Real Madrid, Jules Kounde is out injured, who has been in dominant form throughout the season.

Xavi is likely to start Joao Cancelo at right-back to add more control to the game. And while the Portuguese’ offensive capabilities are unquestionably brilliant, the defensive part of the game is far from elite.

This is where starting Vinicius and Joselu up top, with Toni Kroos in central midfield means Madrid can massively boost their scoring chances.

Vinicius could, on most occasions, get the better of Cancelo and target passes into Joselu and Bellingham. Both of them in and around the box could prove to be very difficult for even Araujo and Christensen in central defence.

Further, with Kroos in the setup, the German can target pinpoint long passes into the final third, with either of them as the target. Both of them also win second balls regularly, as was the case with Bellingham’s goal against Girona, set up by Joselu.

Conclusion

Rodrygo has had a subpar season so far and even though he was on target against SC Braga this midweek and enjoys the trust of the manager, Real Madrid would be better served with having Joselu on the pitch against Barcelona at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.

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Features

Five players who will be fixed starters for Real Madrid next season

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Following a successful campaign, Real Madrid are poised for significant changes in their roster due to a combination of player arrivals and departures.

The responsibility of blending new faces with established stars will fall to coach Carlo Ancelotti and his staff as they aim to maintain the club’s competitive edge domestically and in Europe.

And to predict the team’s probable strategy and performance amidst these changes, it is imperative to identify the key players who will be constant starters.

Kylian Mbappe

The new talisman. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

With Real Madrid no longer viewing Mbappe through rose-tinted lenses and finally being able to dress him in the royal white jersey, the Frenchman is expected to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Owing to his instinctive nature to find the back of the net, he is poised to be paired alongside Vinicius Jr. in attack.

Last season, the 2018 World Cup winner scored a whopping 44 goals in all competitions. Thus Real Madrid will be banking heavily on Mbappe’s ability to ask questions of opposition defenders in the final third.

It is being said that Mbappe is all set to wear the iconic number 9 jersey at Real Madrid, which is indicative of the role he will play, as a focal striker.

Vinicius Jr.

The main man at Real Madrid. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Brazilian is in pole position to win the Ballon d’Or this year, and looking back on his season with Real Madrid, it is easy to see why.

Despite losing Karim Benzema, his usual partner in crime over the past few years, Vinicius performed remarkably well in Ancelotti’s new system.

Relentlessly taking on defenders, arriving into space, scoring goals, and stepping up in the biggest of moments, he was one of Real Madrid’s major lynchpins throughout the season as they lifted a historic double.

Vinicius impressively racked up 24 goals last season, and given his importance to the team, the likelihood of him not maintaining a starting role next season is nearly nonexistent.

Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid Fans’ Player of the Season. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Defying all expectations in his debut season, Jude Bellingham established himself as a key player for Real Madrid, demonstrating exceptional versatility, and maturity far beyond his years.

Although the Englishman’s performances wavered in the final stretch of the season, Bellingham’s contributions ensured Los Blancos were able to compete in the Champions League and especially La Liga.

In addition to scoring 23 goals in all competitions, he has constantly been a beacon of reliability in midfield and has proven to be the voice of reason on the pitch.

There have been murmurs about Bellingham potentially being berthed deeper next season as Real Madrid intends to use him as Kroos’ replacement. However, given his versatility, he is expected to be a crucial player wherever he plays.

Antonio Rudiger

A mainstay at the back. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Rudiger is one of the major reasons Real Madrid managed to successfully disguise their injury crisis. Despite players falling like dominos in the back-line, the German stood resolutely as a dependable figure for most of the campaign, arguably enjoying one of his best seasons.

Expertly anticipating opposition strikers’ movements, he leaps forward to thwart attacks before they begin. Moreover, thanks to his large stature and incredible recovery pace, he is able to cover distances behind.

Reports have mentioned that Carlo Ancelotti views him as a crucial component of the squad and potential arrivals, such as those of Leny Yoro and Rafa Marin, in the back-line are unlikely to devalue his presence.

Thibaut Courtois

Back like he was never gone. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

In spite of spending more than half of the campaign on the sidelines recovering from an ACL and MCL injury, Courtois is worth his weight in gold for Real Madrid.

He performed admirably in the final few games of the season and did no wrong against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League final.

While Andriy Lunin made up for his absence with flying colours, he is placed below Courtois in the pecking order for now, which also has made the Ukrainian lean towards an exit.

The fact that Lunin, after his sublime season, stands no chance of dethroning Courtois between the sticks is a testament to how much the club appreciates the Belgian. Even at the age of 32, the Belgian keeper is anticipated to retain an important role in the team.

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