Real Madrid will face the grind in their upcoming games as they play Athletic Club, Atletico Madrid, and Real Sociedad in a span of nine days. The defending La Liga champions must quickly amend their poor form, for they are already chasing a deficit in the title race.
They first travel to Bilbao where they cross swords with Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic Club at San Mames tomorrow. The Basque side sit in eighth place on the La Liga table, having won seven of their seventeen games so far.
Athletic Club have been desolate since their return to La Liga after the international break, dropping five points in just three games. As they look to stop the bleeding and solidify as a unit, Real Madrid must put their best foot forward to win a second consecutive away game across all competitions.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Athletic Club vs Real Madrid.
1. The happy hangover
As the Real Madrid players walked into the tunnel at half-time against Villarreal, heads bowed down in shame, one felt that the team was broken mentally. Even in their most desperate attempt to come out of the vicious cycle, they were trapped in, Los Blancos were staring down at a two-goal deficit in just 45 minutes.
The events of the dressing room over the next fifteen minutes remain unknown, but the response that followed was ground-breaking.
As if unperturbed by their poor form, Real Madrid returned to the field with real purpose. They only left the field 44 minutes later with the Yellow Submarines’ blood on their hands.
Vinicius Jr, Eder Militao, and Dani Ceballos helped the visitors complete an improbable comeback at La Ceramica to break the curse that had held them for close to six years.
Now free from the shackles of negativity and the pressure of the media, the Merengues will hope to return to their imperial best.
One good result is usually all it takes for Real Madrid to flip the switch and turn up the heat. Three difficult fixtures lie ahead on the ‘ calendar, and it will be vital for them to maintain a winning streak.
2. Keeping up with the Catalans
Three points separate Real Madrid and Barcelona at the apex of the La Liga standings. While a single matchday could see that gap annulled in theory, it could pan out to be a long and dreaded waiting game for Ancelotti’s men.
Barcelona have seemingly hit their peak form at the right time and are riding high on confidence. The Catalans have taken down both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in their last four games and slammed five past AD Ceuta earlier this week.
For Los Blancos to catch up on the league standings, Barcelona must drop points. Until such a golden opportunity arises, however, the men in white will be under constant pressure to maintain the uniform gap and prevent it from widening.
The defending champions have been relatively slack in La Liga recently, and the situation is worrying. Having dropped seven points in a span of just five games, they have shot themselves in the foot.
Every game in La Liga now no longer comes with the cushion a league game promises. One slip-up could be the difference between winning or losing the title, and it is high time Ancelotti & co. come to terms with the same.
3. Payback at San Mames
The last time Real Madrid and Athletic Club faced off at San Mames was the quarter-final of last season’s Copa del Rey.
Ancelotti’s men bore the favourites tag as they walked into the stadium against one of La Liga’s finest teams. What followed in the next ninety minutes is a story no Real Madrid player would wish to recall.
Despite having close to 60% of the possession against Athletic Club, the men in white were suppressed in attack and exploited in defence. The hosts had a whopping 15 shots on target including eight blocked shots as opposed to Real Madrid’s seven and four respectively.
Wave after wave of Basque attack tormented the Merengues‘ defence and the fortress eventually collapsed painfully in the penultimate minute of the game.
With seconds to go on the clock in regulation time, Alex Berenguer got onto the end of Mikel Vesga’s ball and put it past Thibaut Courtois to eliminate the favourites from the cup.
Real Madrid have a chance to avenge their painful defeat when they face off against Ernesto Valverde’s men at the same venue on Sunday. Coming off a win at one of Spain’s most difficult stadiums, they will look to conquer another well-reputed fortress, this time in the Basque region.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia
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.