Life has been good for Rodrygo, who is writing a dramatic story within the season for Real Madrid.
The Brazilian was in underwhelming form heading into the season, and had scored one goal in 12 appearances in the league – that too on matchday one against Athletic Club. He had just the one assist to go with it, coming against Las Palmas during gameweek two.
Despite his form, though, he was an undisputed starter for Carlo Ancelotti this season, who wanted to fit him in the front-three alongside Vinicius Jr and Jude Bellingham.
Real Madrid, too, were happy with Rodrygo, and showed their appreciation in the form of a contract extension on 2nd November that was in the works for a few months. His salary was sufficiently improved, and a fresh €1 billion release clause was inserted in the new deal.
Rodrygo has made sure to come through for Real Madrid since then, proving that the club and manager were correct to trust him.
It’s raining goals
After signing the new deal on 2nd November, Real Madrid took on Rayo Vallecano which ended in a goalless draw. Rodrygo did not start the game, but was brought on in the 70th minute.
Unfortunately, that was too little time for him to make an impact, but the best was yet to come.
Rodrygo was on target against SC Braga in the Champions League, and also assisted Brahim Diaz for his goal.
Half a week later, Madrid hosted Valencia, and won 5-1. Daniel Carvajal opened the scoring, but it was all about Rodrygo from thereon. He assisted both of Vincius’ goals, and then added the fourth and fifth himself, ending the game with two goals and two assists.
Now, coming back from international break, with a knee discomfort, Rodrygo was not expected to start today against Cadiz. However, Brahim Diaz had to pull out of the starting lineup due to stomach problems, which means the Brazilian was forced to replace him.
It all worked out for Madrid, though, as Rodrygo was involved in all three goals in the 0-3 win, which all started with a stellar solo goal from him, taking it around four defenders and slotting it into the top right corner.
He scored another in the 64th minute, this time rounding off two defenders and smashing it into the net.
If this was not enough, he also set up Bellingham in the 74th minute as the Englishman found the bottom corner with a stellar finish.
Coming up clutch
Rodrygo came up clutch for Madrid multiple times during their Champions League run in 2021/22, scoring against Chelsea and Manchester City. He has pulled los blancos out of tricky situations multiple times, including now.
Madrid lost Vincius to injury during the international break, while Arda Guler has suffered from a relapse as well. With Bellingham also suffering, Rodrygo took over the burden and delivered brilliantly.
His nine goal contributions in the last four games, since signing the extension, have taken him to seven goals and five assists across La Liga and UEFA Champions League.
Real Madrid are now top of the table, even if it is temporarily, and with Rodrygo in this kind of form, it will be difficult to pull them down.
Ancelotti considering playing a makeshift centre-back pairing for Real Madrid against Valencia – report
Real Madrid will take on Valencia on Saturday, looking to maintain their solid lead at the top of the league table.
The Spanish giants are leading the standing with a six-point lead over Girona. A win against Valencia could help them solidify their position at the top while potentially opening up an opportunity to extend the lead to more than six points.
Heading into this game, though, Carlo Ancelotti is facing multiple setbacks, especially in the defensive unit, with Eder Militao, David Alaba and Thibaut Courtois still missing due to injuries.
This will once again put pressure on Ancelotti, as far as the team selection is concerned.
Rudiger & Tchouameni to partner at centre-back vs Valencia
Fortunately for the Real Madrid coach, much of his experimentations this season have worked, including Aurelien Tchouameni’s supreme performances at centre-back.
With that in mind, Diario AS reports Ancelotti is considering playing a makeshift central defensive pair against Valencia, comprising Antonio Rudiger and Tchouameni.
This is not the first time the young Frenchman will have to accompany Rudiger at centre-back. He did so earlier in the year when Real Madrid took on RCD Mallorca.
Interestingly, Real Madrid were able to retain a clean sheet, with Rudiger scoring the winning goal, in a narrow 1-0 victory.
What are Ancelotti’s other options?
Ancelotti will be hoping for a similar outcome this time around. However, it must be noted that the Italian will be boosted by the return of Dani Carvajal from suspension.
The veteran Spaniard can be an option at centre-back. But given the way how Tchouameni has impressed onlookers with his performances at centre-back, there is very little reason why he shouldn’t continue in the position.
Tchouameni has even been compared to Javier Mascherano by former Spanish coach Roberto Moreno.
Other than Carvajal, though, Nacho Fernandez is another option for Ancelotti. But the veteran defender is suffering with discomfort and Ancelotti has no plans to risk it.