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.
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.
Three talking points from Real Madrid 1-0 Union Berlin
Real Madrid kicked off their UEFA Champions League campaign on Wednesday night with a narrow 1-0 win over Union Berlin.
The victory was deserved from the point of view of domination of play. Real Madrid were the only team attacking for large parts of the night and created chances to no end.
Yet, one must tip the hat to the visitors’ resilient defence. Playing the first UEFA Champions League clash in the club’s history is difficult enough, let alone at the Santiago Bernabeu. Union Berlin did so and with some style.
Until the 93rd minute, a draw appeared to be the most probable result. The visitors refused to cave into Real Madrid’s relentless attacks and poured their hearts out on the field.
In the end, however, Carlo Ancelotti’s men did what they do best. A last-minute winner from Jude Bellingham gave the hosts all three points.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid 1-0 Union Berlin.
The power of Real Madrid
Real Madrid are one of the few teams in the world that can never be written off. Such is the ability of the team, more so under Carlo Ancelotti, that they can pull off a win even after a howler.
Their unfair advantage, in part, owes itself to the ridiculous individual quality they possess on the field. Any player is capable of turning the game around with a moment of magic.
Yet, the most important factor that works in their favour is the mental resilience in the squad. Real Madrid never believe it is over until it really is, and Wednesday night’s game provided further reassurance as to why they are the mentality monsters.
For 90 minutes, the visitors frustrated Real Madrid to the limit. They stuck to their defensive lines with discipline and did not give Los Blancos much to work with.
Yet, Real Madrid’s perseverance was visible through the ordeal. The intensity of their attacks amplified with every passing minute and showed no signs of tapering down.
Poetically, they found the winning goal in the final minute of added time when all doors seemed closed, with Jude Bellingham being the hero yet again.
Forwards need to step up
The men in white had 75% of the possession on Wednesday night at Santiago Bernabeu and kept making the required penetrative attacks.
In 90 minutes, the hosts racked up an xG tally of 3.80. Yet, shockingly, they were goalless even in the penultimate minute of the game.
Real Madrid took 32 shots against Union Berlin as opposed to the opposition’s four. Seven shots were on target while 10 were blocked.
In terms of big chances, the me in white churned up five in the 90 minutes of which they missed four. They also struck the woodwork twice last night.
The team’s struggles in the final third place the spotlight on Rodrygo Goes and Joselu, who were the team’s two forwards at Santiago Bernabeu. Both players suffered disappointing nights in front of goal and just could not catch a break from their poor luck.
The Spaniard had three shots on target, five off it, and three attempts blocked against Union Berlin. All of it, however, was in vain.
The Brazilian was not much better with three shots and one blocked chance. Nevertheless, their poor results were not for a lack of trying if that is any silver lining.
Far from convincing
Real Madrid’s mentality and fortitude to push for a win is indeed a reason to be optimistic. However, that does not hide the fact that the men in white struggled and toiled on to no end.
The Champions League has no minnows, but one would expect Real Madrid to show their dominance at some point in the game and close the deal. However, that spell of play never arrived.
Los Blancos may be on a six-game winning streak so far this season, but there is reason to believe that a factor of luck has been essential for most of their scalps.
All eyes will thus be on Ancelotti now. The manager has a world-class roster at his disposal, and it will now be up to him to enhance Real Madrid’s performance in the final third. After all, putting away chances is as important as creating them.