Real Madrid hosted RCD Mallorca at Santiago Bernabeu on Matchday 5 of La Liga. Carlo Ancelotti’s men had not dropped points so far this season and looked to keep their streak running against the thirteenth-placed side.
Eder Militao and Karim Benzema were unavailable on the day and were replaced by Antonio Rudiger and Eden Hazard respectively. Additionally, there were changes in midfield as Dani Ceballos and Federico Valverde received starts.
Mallorca started strong on the afternoon, very similar to how Celtic pushed against Los Blancos early in the game midweek. The visitors had two chances in the opening five minutes but Vedat Muriqi could not beat Thibaut Courtois.
Ancelotti’s side soon got on the front foot and began their relentless attacks. Vinicius Junior came close to scoring in the tenth minute before Kroos’ shot went close four minutes later.
The hosts produced a well-orchestrated attack in the 26th minute to find Rodrygo at the edge of the box. The youngster fired at goal but his effort went straight to the goalkeeper. A minute later, Lucas Vazquez found Ceballos in the box with his cross but the chance came to nothing.
Completely against the tide of the game, Mallorca scored in the 35th minute and took the lead. The visitors were awarded a free-kick after a rash challenge by Federico Valverde which Kang-in Lee perfectly delivered to the far post. Rising above those around him, Muriqi headed the ball past the Belgian shot-stopper.
One falls at a shortage of words to describe the equaliser scored late in the first half. Valverde received the ball in the Real Madrid half, ran across the field to the final third, turned past two defenders and fired it from outside the box into the top left corner.
Vinicius had a glorious chance to give his team the lead after the restart when Hazard selflessly passed it to him from in front of the goal. However, the youngster could not finish the chance.
Antonio Sanchez missed a sitter for Mallorca in the 65th minute as he failed to put the ball into an open net.
Los Blancos got their deserved lead in the 71st minute through some Brazilian magic. Rodrygo Goes did well to evade three defenders at the edge of the box before setting Vinicius free in front of the goal. With only the goalkeeper to beat, the protege made no mistake.
If his assist to Vinicius was not good enough, Rodrygo pulled off a sublime goal of his own to put the game beyond the visitors’ reach. In what was a completely solo goal, he took the ball into the Mallorca box and dribbled past the defence before dispatching it into the goal.
Antonio Rudiger then made it four for the La Liga champions as he got onto the end of a set-piece in the 92nd minute. The goal was checked for offside but stood.
The game ended 4-1 in the Merengues’ favour and sees them return to the top of the league standings. They next play midweek against RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League.
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.