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Three questions and three answers from Mallorca 0-1 Real Madrid

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Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid scraped past Mallorca to secure three points on Saturday at Son Moix in what was a hard-fought game from start to finish.

Despite fielding a rotated squad, Los Blancos boasted of the momentum for large parts of the game and should have extended their lead to two or three goals with ease.

In the end, however, only a spectacular strike from Aurelien Tchouameni separated the two teams and Real Madrid maintained their lead in La Liga for the business end of the season.

More importantly, the Merengues retain the momentum on their side ahead of a do-or-die clash against Pep Guardiola’s men.

Madrid Universal brings you three questions and three answers from Mallorca 0-1 Real Madrid.

Three Answers

Ancelotti was not afraid of rotations

If Carlo Ancelotti’s pre-game press conference was anything to go by, it did not appear likely that the manager would look to make big changes for the clash against Mallorca. After all, he described it as a final and spoke at length about the importance of a win at Son Moix.

As it turns out, Ancelotti did not hesitate to shuffle his deck for the league game ahead of the second leg against Manchester City. In fact, almost his entire lineup on the night featured rotations.

Nacho Fernandez came into the lineup to partner with Antonio Rudiger at centre-back. While Mendy continued as a starter, Dani Carvajal was given a day off with Lucas Vazquez taking his place.

Aurelien Tchouameni unsurprisingly started on the night given his impending suspension for the Manchester City clash, but Toni Kroos was replaced by Luka Modric in midfield. Jude Bellingham and Federico Valverde, meanwhile, kept their places in the lineup.

Both Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo were rested in attack, and the coach deployed Joselu and Brahim Diaz in their place.

Fringe players can impress too

While none of the players who played from the opening whistle last night can be aptly called ‘fringe’, it was always an interesting opportunity to see how the backup players utilised their chance to shine.

Defensively, Nacho and Vazquez were solid as they not only held the fort with resilience but also contributed efficiently in terms of distribution and pushing forward.

Some changes worked, some did not. (Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Luka Modric was also sensational on the evening, and rightly earned a standing ovation from Son Moix in what could be his final appearance at the venue. The Croatian star recorded three key passes created one big chance and clocked over 110 passes on the night.

Brahim and Joselu, however, were not close to as influential as one would have hoped. The duo grew into the game late in the second half, but Diaz was underwhelming in the buildup and missed a golden chance to score while the striker was abysmal in the box.

Real Madrid will head into El Clasico with their lead intact

Real Madrid’s next clash in La Liga is against arch-rivals and second-placed team Barcelona in what will be a massive game from the title race perspective.

Los Blancos had an eight-point cushion ahead of kickoff, but with the Clasico ahead, all focus was on extending the same to eleven provisionally.

After all, a slip-up against Mallorca would potentially reduce the team’s lead to five points and give Barcelona a chance to cut it to two points next weekend.

As it stands, however, Real Madrid got the job done against Javier Aguirre’s men and head into Clasico with their dominant eight-point lead intact. Needless to say, it comes as a relief ahead of a daunting clash.

Three Questions

How much will Los Blancos miss Aurelien Tchouameni midweek?

Having failed to secure an advantage in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid have everything to fight for at the Etihad Stadium midweek.

To come out on top at the opposition’s fortress will be far from easy, more so when one considers that Los Blancos will be without Aurelien Tchouameni on the night.

The Frenchman’s early booking against Pep Guardiola’s side saw him guarantee his absence for the decisive reverse fixture. Considering that he was the manager’s top choice to partner Antonio Rudiger in defence, his absence brings Ancelotti a dilemma.

Tchouameni’s masterclass against Mallorca which not only included a stunning winner but also showcased his mastery in possession, calm defensive presence and expert distribution does not help the manager’s cause.

Real Madrid have not lost a single game this season when the Frenchman has started, and their only two losses of the season came when he was unavailable as a starter. Needless to say, Ancelotti has a big void to fill in the team come Wednesday.

Should Real Madrid be worried over Jude Bellingham?

Jude Bellingham’s performance against Manchester City was not half as bad as propagated by the media. Yet, the player has only himself to blame for the same for he set the bar very high with his phenomenal start to the season.

Not firing on all cylinders. (Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Last night, the English phenom started once more for Los Blancos and dished out another decent performance. However, there is a feeling that he is missing the presence in the box that he had in the first half of the season.

Ahead of what is their biggest game of the season, Ancelotti would have hoped for his star man to deliver a statement performance.

His inability to hit the same peaks, however, could become a headache for the coach, especially with quality options like Brahim Diaz also vying for a spot in the lineup.

Is Eder Militao really ready?

There is a significant discussion going around in Madrid over Ancelotti’s backing of Eder Militao to start against Manchester City midweek. In fact, the manager did not deny the possibility of speaking in a recent press conference.

The equation, in that sense, does not add up, for Militao does not appear to be fit enough to start in a game of such proportions. Last night against Mallorca as well, Ancelotti brought the Brazilian on in stoppage time, and there is no possible way he will start the team’s next game.

Heading into the clash against Manchester City, Ancelotti’s best hope, thus, would be to rely on Nacho in defence. Any claim of using Militao in the position would appear to be nothing but mere games of the mind.

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Features

Three talking points ahead of Villarreal vs Real Madrid

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Jude Bellingham, Vinicius Jr, Federico Valverde and Arda Guler were all on target when Real Madrid demolished Deportivo Alaves by a 5-0 scoreline midweek.

The win at the Santiago Bernabeu took the team to 93 points in La Liga, with the champion status already earned. The target now, however, is to reach the magical number of 99 points.

Tomorrow, Los Blancos step on the field for their penultimate league clash of the season as they lock horns against Villarreal.

Their opponents, currently placed eighth in the league, are fighting for a place in Europe and must win tomorrow at Estadio de La Ceramica if they are to remain in the race.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Villarreal vs Real Madrid.

Can Bellingham maintain the steam?

Jude Bellingham’s dip in form towards the end of the season raised many concerns in the Real Madrid offices over his fitness and physical state. A mini ‘pre-season’ was said to be in the manager’s plan, especially keeping Bellingham’s recovery in mind.

The young midfielder, however, started the team’s game against Deportivo Alaves once more despite rumours of him being rested and dished out a classic on the night. His performance, in many senses, was one that announced his return to form.

In 90 minutes against Alaves, Bellingham scored one goal and provided two assists as the game ended 5-0 in Real Madrid’s favour.

Furthermore, the former Borussia Dortmund star recorded a staggering 121 touches, 99 passes, six key passes and created one big chance. He also completed four dribbles on the night and participated in eight defensive actions.

It thus becomes a serious question ahead of tomorrow’s clash as to how Carlo Ancelotti plans on managing Bellingham’s minutes.

The obvious approach would be to field the youngster from the start and reward his improved performance at the weekend. Concurrently, however, there is concern over the midfielder being overused which inhibits the manager from such a move.

Will Bellingham start against Villarreal or will the likes of Brahim Diaz or Arda Guler get a deserved start? Only time will tell.

Lunin’s heroic exit

Thibaut Courtois’ injury before the commencement of the new season left Real Madrid with a crisis in goal. The repercussions of the blow, however, were not as dire as expected courtesy of Andriy Lunin’s exceptional performances.

Lunin could play his final game of the season vs Villarreal. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Despite starting the campaign behind Kepa Arrizabalaga on the pecking order, the Ukrainian international has done enough to become the team’s primary goalkeeper across all competitions.

Only Courtois’ return last month displaced him from the starting lineup as the manager prioritised bringing the Belgian superstar back to full fitness.

Real Madrid now plan on starting Courtois for the big UCL final at Wembley next month.

While unfair on Lunin who deserves the start, one cannot blame Ancelotti for relying on the player who single-handedly kept the team in the game the last time they featured in a European final.

With Courtois set to start against Real Betis and Borrusia Dortmund, tomorrow could well be Lunin’s final game of the season for Real Madrid and the 25-year-old will look to depart with a bang.

Momentum is paramount

Real Madrid have already been crowned the champions of La Liga, and every game that remains in the competition at this point only serves as a practice encounter for the big challenge that lies ahead.

Los Blancos take on Borussia Dortmund in the finale of the UCL early next month, and only two games remain before the season-defining encounter. A lot, needless to say, will depend on how Ancelotti manages his squad for the two matches that lie ahead.

Considering that the calendar is no longer as hectic as it was a month ago, the manager could well field his best XI against Villarreal aiming to keep the momentum going for his side. After all, it is paramount at this stage in the season.

At the same time, however, the manager must rotate his squad ahead to give fringe players some deserved minutes and balance the playing time of regular starters.

Los Blancos, at this point, are unbeaten in 23 games across all competitions and have the momentum fairly on their side. Maintaining it with a positive result tomorrow irrespective of the final decision on the extent of rotations will thus be crucial for the Merengues.

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