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Three talking points ahead of Almeria vs Real Madrid | La Liga

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Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP via Getty Images

Having secured three convincing points against Athletic Club in their first outing of the season, Real Madrid now stare their second game on the road in the eye.

Their schedule now takes them to Estadio del Mediterraneo where they will face Vicente Moreno’s Almeria. The hosts lost their first game of the season to Rayo Vallecano by two goals and will look to stand strong against the Merengues.

Real Madrid have won their last seven games against Almeria and are unbeaten in 12 games against them. They will be the heavy favourites on the day but must be wary of the likes of Adrian Embarba and Iddrisu Baba who can be game-changers for the hosts.

Double ACL trouble

Thibaut Courtois’ ACL injury ahead of the game against Athletic Club set a dull mood in Carlo Ancelotti’s camp. The Belgian is, after all, one of the key pillars of the team.

It is safe to say that the events at San Mames did not improve the situation by any means. Playing against the Basque side in their first game of the season, Real Madrid lost their second player to an ACL rupture, possibly for the entire season, in Eder Militao.

The Brazilian centre-back is not expected to return to action in the near future. Thus, Los Blancos spent all week identifying backups and found candidates both in the academy and on the market.

In either case, Ancelotti is expected to count on Antonio Rudiger and David Alaba in central defence against Almeria.

The duo will serve as the team’s first-choice defensive pairing for the rest of the campaign, and tomorrow’s clash will thus be a big test of their chemistry on the field. After all, the Austrian and German international defenders have not played many games together over the past year.

Do or die for Andriy Lunin

When Ancelotti spoke of his faith in Andriy Lunin to replace Thibaut Courtois in goal this season, he did not rule out a new signing in the position.

Fast forward one week and Real Madrid have signed Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga on a season-long loan as an alternative for Courtois. The new arrival is expected to serve as the starting goalkeeper this term.

While the player is ready to make his debut, Ancelotti prefers to give him more time to acclimatise to the new club. Andriy Lunin will thus start against Almeria.

Big game for Lunin. (Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP via Getty Images)

It will thus be a momentous occasion for the Ukrainian star who will have one final guaranteed chance to make a good impression on the management. A strong showing tomorrow could, in theory, gift him minutes through the course of the season.

All eyes will thus be on the 24-year-old shot-stopper tomorrow to see if he can keep his second straight clean sheet of the season.

Carlo’s latest tweak

Heading into the 2023-24 campaign, not many knew what to expect from Ancelotti in terms of dynamics. After all, the summation of the player influx and efflux left him with a significantly different balance in the squad.

The manager finally opted to go with a 4-4-2 diamond setup in place of the traditional 4-3-3 with Jude Bellingham occupying the apex of the diamond. The one drawback of the system, however, is that it leaves the flanks relatively vacant.

If reports from earlier this week are to be believed, Ancelotti is set to tweak his setup one more time. He will stick with the 4-4-2 setup but is said to be preparing a dynamic where the full-backs push higher up.

The Italian mastermind hopes to congest and suffocate the opposition defence by adding width to the play. Two full-backs, in combination with two forwards and an attacking midfielder, will indeed be a lot for Almeria’s defence to handle.

The new dynamic thus brings two interesting areas to judge ahead of the Merengues’ clash at Estadio del Mediterraneo.

For starters, it will be important to see if Fran Garcia has the X-factor to perform consistently in the final third and deliver an impact in attack.

At right-back, the question around Dani Carvajal hangs not around his ability to contribute in attack but to track back in transitions. After all, the Spaniard is 31 years old and is no longer the same runner on the flank.

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Five players who will be fixed starters for Real Madrid next season

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Following a successful campaign, Real Madrid are poised for significant changes in their roster due to a combination of player arrivals and departures.

The responsibility of blending new faces with established stars will fall to coach Carlo Ancelotti and his staff as they aim to maintain the club’s competitive edge domestically and in Europe.

And to predict the team’s probable strategy and performance amidst these changes, it is imperative to identify the key players who will be constant starters.

Kylian Mbappe

The new talisman. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

With Real Madrid no longer viewing Mbappe through rose-tinted lenses and finally being able to dress him in the royal white jersey, the Frenchman is expected to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Owing to his instinctive nature to find the back of the net, he is poised to be paired alongside Vinicius Jr. in attack.

Last season, the 2018 World Cup winner scored a whopping 44 goals in all competitions. Thus Real Madrid will be banking heavily on Mbappe’s ability to ask questions of opposition defenders in the final third.

It is being said that Mbappe is all set to wear the iconic number 9 jersey at Real Madrid, which is indicative of the role he will play, as a focal striker.

Vinicius Jr.

The main man at Real Madrid. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Brazilian is in pole position to win the Ballon d’Or this year, and looking back on his season with Real Madrid, it is easy to see why.

Despite losing Karim Benzema, his usual partner in crime over the past few years, Vinicius performed remarkably well in Ancelotti’s new system.

Relentlessly taking on defenders, arriving into space, scoring goals, and stepping up in the biggest of moments, he was one of Real Madrid’s major lynchpins throughout the season as they lifted a historic double.

Vinicius impressively racked up 24 goals last season, and given his importance to the team, the likelihood of him not maintaining a starting role next season is nearly nonexistent.

Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid Fans’ Player of the Season. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Defying all expectations in his debut season, Jude Bellingham established himself as a key player for Real Madrid, demonstrating exceptional versatility, and maturity far beyond his years.

Although the Englishman’s performances wavered in the final stretch of the season, Bellingham’s contributions ensured Los Blancos were able to compete in the Champions League and especially La Liga.

In addition to scoring 23 goals in all competitions, he has constantly been a beacon of reliability in midfield and has proven to be the voice of reason on the pitch.

There have been murmurs about Bellingham potentially being berthed deeper next season as Real Madrid intends to use him as Kroos’ replacement. However, given his versatility, he is expected to be a crucial player wherever he plays.

Antonio Rudiger

A mainstay at the back. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Rudiger is one of the major reasons Real Madrid managed to successfully disguise their injury crisis. Despite players falling like dominos in the back-line, the German stood resolutely as a dependable figure for most of the campaign, arguably enjoying one of his best seasons.

Expertly anticipating opposition strikers’ movements, he leaps forward to thwart attacks before they begin. Moreover, thanks to his large stature and incredible recovery pace, he is able to cover distances behind.

Reports have mentioned that Carlo Ancelotti views him as a crucial component of the squad and potential arrivals, such as those of Leny Yoro and Rafa Marin, in the back-line are unlikely to devalue his presence.

Thibaut Courtois

Back like he was never gone. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

In spite of spending more than half of the campaign on the sidelines recovering from an ACL and MCL injury, Courtois is worth his weight in gold for Real Madrid.

He performed admirably in the final few games of the season and did no wrong against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League final.

While Andriy Lunin made up for his absence with flying colours, he is placed below Courtois in the pecking order for now, which also has made the Ukrainian lean towards an exit.

The fact that Lunin, after his sublime season, stands no chance of dethroning Courtois between the sticks is a testament to how much the club appreciates the Belgian. Even at the age of 32, the Belgian keeper is anticipated to retain an important role in the team.

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