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.
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.