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Three talking points ahead of Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid | Copa del Rey

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Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Real Madrid returned to Spain earlier this week with extra baggage after sealing their first title of the season in Saudi Arabia. The win over their arch-rivals in the final helped Nacho Fernandez lay his hands on a first trophy as the captain, etching the team’s name in history once more.

Unfortunately for the men in white, they do not have long to celebrate. The clash against Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey is just a stone’s throw away and will not be a simple encounter for the recently crowned champions by any means.

Carlo Ancelotti has several decisions to make on the night, both pertaining to tactics and personnel. Yet, it is only fitting that a derby decides who goes through to the next round of the competition.

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

Soaring high and strong

The win over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup final gifted Real Madrid their first trophy of the season. More importantly, however, the result gave Los Blancos more reasons to believe in their quality than any other game this season.

Faced against their arch-rivals, Real Madrid were rampant at Al-Awwal Stadium on Sunday night. Xavi’s men did not stand a chance as Vinicius Jr. gave his side a two-goal cushion just over ten minutes into the game.

Just as it seemed like Barcelona were making their way back into the game through Robert Lewandowski’s stunner, the Brazilian inflicted a third blow before half-time. Rodrygo Goes put the final nail in the coffin with a composed finish around the hour mark.

The 4-1 scoreline took Los Blancos to paradise, giving them a taste of silverware and much-needed determination ahead of the business end of the season. More importantly, the manner in which they outclassed Barcelona only went on to prove their dominance at the highest level.

It is thus safe to say that Real Madrid are soaring high and strong, both in terms of sporting performance and mental fortitude. Ahead of the clash against Atletico Madrid, this will serve as a key ingredient that could help them get past a second elite opposition in as many games.

Midfield rotations

Ancelotti to bench Kroos? (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

Speaking to the media after the game against Barcelona, Carlo Ancelotti detailed his selection in the middle of the park. After all, the manager is spoilt for choice in midfield and placed players like Luka Modric and Eduardo Camavinga on the bench for the final.

“Kroos was fresher and that’s why I chose him today for the starting eleven,” he said.

As revealed earlier today, the midfield is set to undergo a serious rotation ahead of the Copa del Rey clash midweek. Ancelotti will likely start both Toni Kroos and Aurelien Tchouameni on the bench, both of whom played a critical role against Barcelona.

Instead, Modric and Camavinga are expected to join Federico Valverde in midfield. This would preserve the team’s 4-4-2 diamond formation with the Frenchman taking the spot at the base of the midfield.

The Croatian superstar will join Valverde as the interior midfielder on the night while Jude Bellingham is expected to keep his place as the bonafide attacking midfielder in the setup.

Ancelotti’s decision to rotate the midfield is not only down to the sheer quality of the midfield players Real Madrid have in their possession but also because of the hectic schedule ahead.

With games coming in with little to no time to recuperate, adjusting players’ playing time is the right approach forward. After all, Modric and Camavinga are more than capable of replacing Kroos and Tchouameni and will be vital if the team are to get over the line tomorrow.

A gritty fight

The finale of the Spanish Super Cup, in theory, should have been the competition’s most gruelling battle. With silverware on the line, Barcelona were expected to give Los Blancos a real run for their money.

As it turns out, however, Real Madrid faced far more resistance from Atletico Madrid in the semifinal of the competition than they did against Barcelona in the finale. It may appear appalling, but a deeper dive will reveal that it is not.

Los Rojiblancos, at one point, were better placed than Real Madrid to qualify for the finale of the Supercopa de Espana. Six minutes from the full-time whistle, they had a one-goal lead over Real Madrid and just had to hold on to qualify.

As Carlo Ancelotti’s men do so often, however, they pioneered a comeback and put two goals past Diego Simeone’s side in extra time to take home the slot in the finale.

The big takeaway from the semifinal clash was that Atletico Madrid are perhaps one of Real Madrid’s closest-matched opposition in Spain this season. The men in red and white inflicted upon Los Blancos their only loss of the season and came very close to repeating the feat last week.

Tomorrow’s clash, thus, will once again feature a gritty battle in all probability. Real Madrid will not have it easy to make it to the next round of the Spanish Cup, for Atleti will be looking to avenge last week’s defeat.

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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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