Six games, six wins. The story for Real Madrid at the start of the new season could not be sweeter, or so it appears.
However, that could not be further away from the truth. Los Blancos have been lacklustre in most of their wins, finding resources only in the dying minutes of games to take home three points.
While the fighting spirit is a positive, making a habit of taking games deep certainly is not.
After their nervy win over Union Berlin in the Champions League, Real Madrid face their biggest challenge of the season so far – Atletico Madrid. The game against Diego Simeone’s side kicks off late on Sunday night and could prove to be decisive on the leaderboard.
Carlo Ancelotti and Simeone have enjoyed a hard-fought rivalry over the years as managers with shares almost equally split.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Italian boasts of a mild edge over the Argentine with eight wins in head-to-heads compared to Simeone’s seven.
The head-to-head statistics between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are more skewed, however, with Los Rojiblancos winning just four times to Real Madrid’s nine of the last 20.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid.
The evergreen derby
Derbies are often the most tasty fixtures in the world of football. Of them, the Madrid derby is one that never loses spice.
Los Blancos and Los Rojiblancos have not seen eye to eye in recent years. While they have maintained diplomatic relationships to display on the fore, there is a whole lot more going on behind the scenes between the Spanish giants.
Earlier this year, the Galacticos broke the non-aggression pact with Atleti and openly began scouting and signing players from the Rojiblanco youth camp. That has only added to the existing friction between the two clubs.
Sunday’s derby will thus be an interesting one. After all, both teams have had contrasting starts to their seasons and are equally hungry for the big game.
The clash at Civitas Metropolitano will not be easy by any means.
In their last 14 appearances at the Atletico Madrid stadium, Los Blancos have lost five times, drawn six times and won just thrice. However, they did win at the stadium last season.
Expect no dearth of passion, quality football and tactical manoeuvres when the local rivals lock horns on Sunday.
The two doubts
Two of Real Madrid’s most important stars were potentially at the risk of missing the game against Atletico Madrid, albeit to different extents.
Vinicius Jr has missed Real Madrid’s last three games through injury. The Brazilian was expected to miss eight after the initial blow and a return against Atletico Madrid seemed impossible.
Magically, Vini shortened his recovery time to just half of that initially reported. Carlo Ancelotti revealed in his pre-game press conference that the Brazilian is now 100% fit and that he would travel with the squad.
The only question that remains is whether he starts or is rested out of precaution.
Jude Bellingham, meanwhile, has been the team’s most important player this season. Without him, Real Madrid would have lost 11 points so far.
The new signing was immense once again in the team’s UEFA Champions League fixture midweek, scoring a late winner for his side. Unfortunately, he suffered a stomach bug on Friday and was forced to leave training early.
The Italian tactician confirmed in his presser that Bellingham will play tomorrow. Just like in the case of Vini, the doubt is whether his participation will be as a starter or off the bench.
Need for finesse
There was really only one big takeaway from Real Madrid’s 1-0 win over Union Berlin in the UEFA Champions League – the atrocious finishing.
Los Blancos took 32 shots on the night, seven of which were on target. They recorded five big chances, missing four of them and hitting the woodwork twice.
Against a defensively resilient unit like Atletico Madrid, such slack finishing will not suffice. Ancelotti’s men must pounce on the few chances they create, especially considering that they will be hard to come by.
All eyes, thus, will be on Joselu and Rodrygo Goes. The duo both had rough nights against Union Berlin and will look to turn their fortunes around with a clinical show tomorrow.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli | UEFA Champions League
Fresh off their 3-0 win against Cadiz at the weekend, Real Madrid return to the field late on Wednesday night to take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A lot has changed since the two teams last met. Napoli sacked Rudi Garcia not so long ago and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new manager. The Italian got off to a great start in the form of a 2-1 win over Atalanta in his first game in the position.
Yet, he will face his first big test in the form of Real Madrid later tomorrow. The Naples-based side will have a lot to prove to their manager and the fans on the night, but it is clear that the Merengues will not treat the fixture lightly either.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli.
The headlining clash
The UEFA Champions League leaves fans spoilt for choice, for it offers the highest quality of football between some of the world’s best teams on a regular basis. The headlining fixtures begin as early as the group stages and only grow in promise as the season progresses.
When Real Madrid were drawn into Group C in this year’s UCL, all eyes were on the team that would take the next highest-seeded spot. It was eventually Napoli that made the cut, making the Spanish-Italian clash the group’s most-awaited game.
Since then, the two teams have already faced off once at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Matchday two of the competition. The clash was evenly balanced for the most part, but Jude Bellingham’s masterclass enabled a narrow 3-2 Real Madrid win.
Close to two months on, the two European giants face off once more, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot help but call the upcoming clash the title clash of the matchday, especially considering the two team’s recent history and what rides on the result.
Real Madrid’s place in the Round of 16 was confirmed after their win over SC Braga in the last matchday. Napoli, however, are yet to secure such confirmation and a defeat tomorrow could potentially reduce their gap over Braga to one point.
Napoli thus need the win to maintain security over their qualification, while Real Madrid hope to cement their place as group leaders with a win. With both teams having a lot riding on the result, the game will have no dearth of life on the night.
Carlo Ancelotti spent many a day in the recent international break plotting means to overcome his midfield crisis. After all, he was without the services of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga had also suffered a gruesome injury on national team duty.
The manager thus deployed his best midfield quartet for the clash against Cadiz, hoping to improve the harmony between the four stars. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham all started but the situation got ugly after the 38-year-old walked off injured in the second half.
Ancelotti thus now faces a bottleneck in midfield. Modric has been excluded from the squad after his latest injury, leaving the manager with just four options from the first-team in midfield. Needless to say, all four players are expected to start in Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond formation on the night.
Bellingham will be deployed as the attacking midfielder while Kroos is likely to play as the pivot. The two interiors will be Dani Ceballos and Valverde, the former of whom has not started a single game all season.
The situation in midfield is thus grim, for the manager can not afford any further injuries in the department.
The man in form
The beginning of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 campaign was all about Jude Bellingham. The Englishman could not stop scoring goals for fun across all competitions and single-handedly won games even in situations where all hope seemed lost.
Rodrygo has stolen the limelight from the English protege in recent weeks, and his resurgence could not come at a better time for Ancelotti. After all, the Brazilian was enduring one of his worst-ever starts to a season but managed to find his footing exactly after Bellingham suffered the blow to his shoulder.
The 22-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in Real Madrid’s recent games. His purple patch began against Braga when he scored once and assisted once to give Los Blancos three critical points.
In the team’s subsequent clash against Valencia, Rodrygo stole the show. In 90 minutes against Los Che, the youngster scored two goals and provided as many assists in the team’s 5-1 win. He added another two goals and an assist to his tally in Real Madrid’s most recent clash against Cadiz.
Needless to say, the spotlight will shine brightly on Rodrygo in tomorrow’s game. As the team’s most in-form player, the onus will be on him to find the required breakthroughs on the night and lead the attack from the front in Vinicius Jr.’s absence.