Real Madrid face RB Leipzig in their second UEFA Champions League 2022-23 group stage game.
The record European champions, who are coming on the back of a 4-1 win over Mallorca, will want to make the best of Leipzig’s stuttering form this season while keeping in mind that Antonio Rudiger is gunning to make his first Champions League start for his new team.
Rudiger, who arrived from Chelsea on a free transfer, attended the pre-match press conference where he talked about several aspects. To begin with, the German international insisted that playing Champions League at Santiago Bernabeu is an absolute privilege.
“Playing Champions League at the Bernabeu is a privilege,” said the German (h/t SPORT). “It’s an honour for me and of course, I’m a bit nervous.”
Over the years, the former Roma man has developed a reputation of being a powerful presence at the heart of the defence. And referring to Neymar’s comments where the Brazilian said Rudiger is ‘scary’ and ‘strong’, he said,
“I don’t know what to say, I don’t know if I’m scaring someone. I want to be aggressive, but in a clean way. I’m not used to being sent off.”
The 29-year-old defender was one of the scorers during Real Madrid’s 4-1 win over Mallorca. Rudiger recorded a personal best five goals last season with Chelsea. When asked about his aim for this term, he said that he would love to at least match the tally.
“It’s one of my attributes, I like to attack and score goals. It’s a feeling I have inside of me and I imagine scoring as many goals as possible, especially if they’re important. Last year I scored five, I hope this will be more.”
“Scoring for Madrid is a great feeling, the crowd is great to contribute to the team. Leipzig are good on offence, they have a good rhythm, and they are intense. If I have to play, I hope the feeling of scoring again a goal can be repeated,” said the defender.
As Rudiger moved to Madrid in the summer transfer window, his ex-Chelsea teammate Timo Werner travelled back to Germany to rejoin RB Leipzig. The former teammates will square off against each other on Wednesday and when asked about the same, he added:
“We have known each other for a long time, I love having him [Werner] on the pitch. This time he will be my rival and I will do everything to stop him.”
Arriving in Spain meant the German came to a foreign land, which means communication was always going to be an issue. When quizzed about it, Rudiger admitted that although his Spanish is a bit rough, he manages to explain himself to everyone.
“It’s very important to talk on the pitch to make life easier for us, before and during the match. It’s natural for me, I’ve always done it. I speak in Spanish and I think that, at the moment, everyone understands me,” he said.
“It’s not up to me who I’m going to play with, it’s not my responsibility. When I’ve played with Alaba or Militao, there hasn’t been any problem with the language. It’s normal that we speak Spanish, we’re in Spain. You don’t learn in two days, but knowing Italian helps me.”
“We are all normal people, from the outside you imagine what it would be like to be inside the locker room. The adaptation has been the easiest and most comfortable I have ever had, everyone is normal and respectful,” he added, talking about his adaptation.
When asked about the Brazilian’s approach, Rudiger explained that it comes as no surprise that the opponent always wants to hurt him.
“It’s what Vinicius does: haggling. It’s understandable that some want to hurt him, I’ve tried too. It’s one of his greatest qualities and you have to try to reduce it. You have to respect your rivals”
“I don’t have to talk about Vinicius’ qualities, he’s a great player. He’s calm in the dressing room, he likes to have fun playing and he does everything he can on the pitch. Having his collaboration makes us feel calmer,” he concluded.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia
For all the institutional and sporting catastrophes Valencia suffer from, they put up a resilient show against Real Madrid last month and held them to a draw in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.
Having fired Gennaro Gattuso less than 48 hours ago, Los Che will be under the command of an interim coach at Santiago Bernabeu in the hope of repeating their feat from Saudi Arabia.
After all, they are struggling this season with just 20 points in 18 league appearances.
Valencia may not be the top team it used to be a couple of seasons ago, but there is a fighting spirit to the squad that makes them special.
As Real Madrid looks to make amends for their dropped points against La Real, some important considerations cross the manager’s mind regarding the clash against Los Che.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.
1. More names at Ancelotti’s disposal
Real Madrid’s long injury list has been a thorn in Carlo Ancelotti’s feet for a long time now. While the manager has had close to five players unavailable through fitness concerns, two names were considered irreplaceable.
Daniel Carvajal is the first on that list. The Spanish International’s presence gave the club hope after Lucas Vazquez’s injury last month, but almost as if planned, the 30-year-old immediately suffered a blow in training and was forced to sit out.
For four games, Ancelotti was thus forced to field Nacho Fernandez as his right-back. The centre-back did a good job at covering out of position, however, will be pushed back to the bench on Thursday as Los Blancos celebrate the return of Carvajal.
The defender is not the only one making his way back, as Aurelien Tchouameni also received the medical all-clear earlier this week.
The French pivot hobbled off an hour into Real Madrid’s league clash against Villarreal in the first week of January and has been sidelined for close to a month.
His absence pushed his coach to try numerous permutations in midfield, but it was finally Eduardo Camavinga who stamped his authority on the position.
With Tchouameni back roaring, his place in the starting lineup seems to be written in stone. One can expect the Frenchman to be deployed alongside Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos for his return to action on Thursday.
2. Concern shifts from right to left-back
The Merengues will finally have a natural right-back available to play against Valencia midweek. However, that does not signal the end of the Italian tactician’s trouble-riddles period.
Just when one full-back position returned to a state of normalcy, Real Madrid now have a crisis at left-back.
Ferland Mendy picked up a thigh injury earlier this week and will miss the team’s next two months of action at least. To say that this is a big blow to the club’s plans would be an understatement, for Mendy was the only natural left-back available in the squad.
David Alaba would appear to be the best-placed alternative, but the Austrian is ruled out through injury himself. Placed at a lack of options, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference earlier today that Eduardo Camavinga would play there against Valencia.
The youngster has played in the defensive position earlier but will face the heat going up against Jose Luis Gaya at Santiago Bernabeu.
Given that Valencia’s right flank put up a memorable display when the two teams met last month, one can be certain that Camavinga’s performance can make or break Real Madrid’s night.
3. No margin for error
Less than halfway through the league season, Los Blancos already find themselves five points behind Barcelona. The wide gap is not a consequence of the defending champions’ poor form but the sheer consistency of Xavi Hernandez’s men, who cannot stop winning.
Having won the Supercopa de Espana last month, the Catalans are currently riding high on confidence. With their season heading from strength to strength, Real Madrid must hold on and wait for the right opportunity to topple the tables.
The Galacticos‘ draw against Real Sociedad added two points to the gap between the top two sides last week. At this stage, Ancelotti’s men cannot afford any further slip-ups for a larger gap would be too much for the men in white to compensate.
Every game henceforth will be a final for Real Madrid in La Liga. Three points are the bare minimum the club can walk away with from any fixture, and that mission will start from their game against Valencia.