Real Madrid’s biggest test of the season came on Sunday night in the form of El Clasico and presented them with a terrific chance to go three points clear of their arch-rivals on the night. The game took place at Santiago Bernabeu, and it is safe to say that Los Blancos had a slight edge heading into the game.
Carlo Ancelotti placed Andriy Lunin in goal with the pairing of Eder Militao and David Alaba guarding the goal in central defence. Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal played at left and right-back, respectively.
Luka Modric and Toni Kroos started in the Clasico alongside Aurelien Tchouameni, who received his debut in football’s biggest game. Karim Benzema, Vinicius Jr and Federico Valverde completed the starting lineup.
The opening minutes saw the visitors dominate the possession while Ancelotti’s men sat comfortably holding for the counterattack. Their effort on the break repeatedly threw off Barcelona’s defence, and it was the same pattern that saw Los Blancos break the deadlock.
In the 12th minute, Toni Kroos showed his class by keeping his cool under pressure and playing wonderful through ball to Vinicius Jr. The youngster made a great run towards the goal, but ter Stegen saved his shot. Almost instinctively, Benzema was at the right place at the right time to pick up the spilt ball and drill it into the back of the net.
Soon after Los Blancos had their opener, Xavi’s men began their waves of rampant attacks and had great chances through Lewandowski and Dembele.
However, the European champions kept their defensive discipline and soaked in the pressure, only to double the Blaugranas plight at the other end.
Real Madrid scored their second goal on the night on the counter once again. It came completely against the run of play in the 35th minute when Mendy found Valverde at the edge of the box. Paying no attention to his distance from goal, the Uruguayan released a ferocious shot past Ter Stegen.
Ancelotti was the happier of the two managers heading into half-time as his team comfortably led by two goals with 45 minutes to go.
It seemed like Benzema scored the team’s third goal in the 1st minute with a perfectly placed shot from a distance, but it was ruled out for offside.
From the beginning of the second half, it was the Madrid-based side who dominated the attacking play and created better chances while the visitors struggled and stretched in defence. Ancelotti opted to replace Modric with Eduardo Camavinga in the 78th minute.
Barcelona pulled one back with eight minutes to go through Ferran Torres. The move began with Ansu Fati dribbling down the left side and sending in a low cross before his compatriot found the back of the net.
Immediately after the goal, Rodrygo came on for Vinicius Jr, followed by Marco Asensio and Antonio Rudiger for Benzema and Carvajal just minutes later.
Real Madrid won a penalty in the 90th minute after VAR interfered and awarded the hosts the chance. The incident involved Eric stepping on Rodrygo’s foot in the box, and the youngster made no mistake in front of the goal.
The win at home takes Madrid three points clear of the Azulgranas and in pole position on the league standings. Needless to say, the result could well be one that determines the championship at the end of the season.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli | UEFA Champions League
Fresh off their 3-0 win against Cadiz at the weekend, Real Madrid return to the field late on Wednesday night to take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A lot has changed since the two teams last met. Napoli sacked Rudi Garcia not so long ago and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new manager. The Italian got off to a great start in the form of a 2-1 win over Atalanta in his first game in the position.
Yet, he will face his first big test in the form of Real Madrid later tomorrow. The Naples-based side will have a lot to prove to their manager and the fans on the night, but it is clear that the Merengues will not treat the fixture lightly either.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli.
The headlining clash
The UEFA Champions League leaves fans spoilt for choice, for it offers the highest quality of football between some of the world’s best teams on a regular basis. The headlining fixtures begin as early as the group stages and only grow in promise as the season progresses.
When Real Madrid were drawn into Group C in this year’s UCL, all eyes were on the team that would take the next highest-seeded spot. It was eventually Napoli that made the cut, making the Spanish-Italian clash the group’s most-awaited game.
Since then, the two teams have already faced off once at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Matchday two of the competition. The clash was evenly balanced for the most part, but Jude Bellingham’s masterclass enabled a narrow 3-2 Real Madrid win.
Close to two months on, the two European giants face off once more, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot help but call the upcoming clash the title clash of the matchday, especially considering the two team’s recent history and what rides on the result.
Real Madrid’s place in the Round of 16 was confirmed after their win over SC Braga in the last matchday. Napoli, however, are yet to secure such confirmation and a defeat tomorrow could potentially reduce their gap over Braga to one point.
Napoli thus need the win to maintain security over their qualification, while Real Madrid hope to cement their place as group leaders with a win. With both teams having a lot riding on the result, the game will have no dearth of life on the night.
Carlo Ancelotti spent many a day in the recent international break plotting means to overcome his midfield crisis. After all, he was without the services of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga had also suffered a gruesome injury on national team duty.
The manager thus deployed his best midfield quartet for the clash against Cadiz, hoping to improve the harmony between the four stars. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham all started but the situation got ugly after the 38-year-old walked off injured in the second half.
Ancelotti thus now faces a bottleneck in midfield. Modric has been excluded from the squad after his latest injury, leaving the manager with just four options from the first-team in midfield. Needless to say, all four players are expected to start in Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond formation on the night.
Bellingham will be deployed as the attacking midfielder while Kroos is likely to play as the pivot. The two interiors will be Dani Ceballos and Valverde, the former of whom has not started a single game all season.
The situation in midfield is thus grim, for the manager can not afford any further injuries in the department.
The man in form
The beginning of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 campaign was all about Jude Bellingham. The Englishman could not stop scoring goals for fun across all competitions and single-handedly won games even in situations where all hope seemed lost.
Rodrygo has stolen the limelight from the English protege in recent weeks, and his resurgence could not come at a better time for Ancelotti. After all, the Brazilian was enduring one of his worst-ever starts to a season but managed to find his footing exactly after Bellingham suffered the blow to his shoulder.
The 22-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in Real Madrid’s recent games. His purple patch began against Braga when he scored once and assisted once to give Los Blancos three critical points.
In the team’s subsequent clash against Valencia, Rodrygo stole the show. In 90 minutes against Los Che, the youngster scored two goals and provided as many assists in the team’s 5-1 win. He added another two goals and an assist to his tally in Real Madrid’s most recent clash against Cadiz.
Needless to say, the spotlight will shine brightly on Rodrygo in tomorrow’s game. As the team’s most in-form player, the onus will be on him to find the required breakthroughs on the night and lead the attack from the front in Vinicius Jr.’s absence.