After securing a memorable comeback win over Paris Saint-Germain in midweek, Real Madrid will travel to Son Moix on Monday to face RCD Mallorca, hoping to maintain their excellent form in La Liga.
Los Blancos currently have a healthy eight-point lead at the top of the league table, with very little signs of a potential late surge from second-placed Sevilla.
But there should be no room for complacency for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, up against a Mallorca side coming on the back of four successive defeats. Real Madrid had thumped Mallorca 6-1 in the reverse fixture and the Whites will be confident of their chances of repeating the feat.
Given the gruelling midweek action against PSG, Carlo Ancelotti must be careful of potential fatigue issues arising in the team. It won’t be surprising to see the Italian ringing in a couple of changes, as he keeps one eye on the gargantuan El Clasico next weekend.
Thibaut Courtois has been a mainstay in between the Real Madrid goal and has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in Europe. He remains a guaranteed starter this weekend, hoping to earn his 12th clean sheet in La Liga this season.
Dani Carvajal remains another guaranteed starter at right-back. Since his return to full fitness, the experienced Spaniard has offered stability and balance to the Real Madrid backline, though there has been a hint of inconsistency in his performances.
In central defence, Ancelotti has no reason to tinker with his tried and tested combination of David Alaba and Eder Militao. The two have developed an excellent partnership, which could go a long way in helping Los Blancos secure another win against Mallorca.
A change could be in order at left-back, as Ferland Mendy returns to contention after serving a suspension in the midweek affair against PSG. His return could be significant for Ancelotti, especially with Marcelo picking up a knock earlier this month.
Moving into midfield, Ancelotti might look to ring in the changes, in light of Casemiro’s return after serving suspension in the UCL.
The Brazilian is set to assume his duties in defensive midfield. His ability to mop up loose balls while simultaneously making driving runs forward could be essential in helping Real Madrid stay on top against Mallorca.
Alongside Casemiro, Ancelotti could provide a breather to Luka Modric. Given Eduardo Camavinga’s excellent performance against PSG, the youngster is best placed to replace the Croat in central midfield.
Casemiro and Camavinga are likely to form Real Madrid’s midfield trifecta alongside Federico Valverde. While Toni Kroos is usually a guaranteed option, the German’s recent battle with a hamstring issue could see him being rested ahead of El Clasico next weekend.
Ancelotti is unlikely to ring in the changes in the attacking unit, considering how well the front three of Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior and Marco Asensio have fared lately.
The combination of Benzema and Vinicius, in particular, could prove to be deadly for a Mallorca side that currently have the second-worst defensive record in La Liga.
Asensio’s place in the side can be argued, as Rodrygo Goes is also pushing for a start. In fact, the Brazilian might just get the nod to feature alongside Benzema and Vinicius to form the front three for Los Blancos on Monday.
Toni Kroos could be involved in action at some point, especially if Real Madrid fail to take control of the game and dominate Mallorca.
Ancelotti has some useful options in the attack as well, with both Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard hoping to be involved. Gareth Bale is another option, who can add experience and dynamism in the final third.
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.