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Shakhtar Donetsk manager hails Real Madrid veteran midfielder: “Neither Iniesta nor Xavi”



Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Real Madrid have enjoyed a strong start to their season and are unbeaten in ten games. Luka Modric has been at the centre of most of Los Blancos’ victories and it is not surprising that the team’s only draw came on a night when the Croat was unavailable.

Up next, the men in white face off against Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League. Leading up to the clash at Santiago Bernabeu, Igor Jovicevic, the manager of the Ukrainian side, spoke to AS and was full of praise for Modric, hailing him for his longevity.

“What Modric is doing, playing at this level with his age and in the best club in the world, no one has done. Neither Iniesta nor Xavi, for example, who went to other clubs much earlier,” Jovicevic said.

This comes as a big claim, given that the Real Madrid player is often compared to Barcelona’s golden trio of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.

The three La Masia graduates are often considered the greatest midfielders to step onto the field and while Modric has done enough to warrant a place alongside them, the fact has seldom been stated out loud.

This season, the veteran has played in nine of the team’s ten games. In that duration, he has clocked two goals and an assist. He suffered a hip injury while on international duty and is unlikely to be risked in Real Madrid’s next few games ahead of El Clasico.

Both Xavi and Iniesta moved on relatively early from European football aged 35 and 33 respectively. The fact that Modric, aged 37, is still producing world-class displays for Carlo Ancelotti’s side week in and week out is a testament to his greatness.

Currently, Barcelona’s legendary number 6 is currently the manager of the club and has overseen a positive overhaul since his arrival last year. Meanwhile, Iniesta is the captain of J1 League club Vissel Kobe and is still an active player.

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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia



Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

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.

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