The last time Real Madrid played away to Barcelona, a Karim Benzema hat-trick saw them gallop past the hosts at Spotify Camp Nou with a 4-0 scoreline. It was one of the best El Clasico performances from the Merengues, one that will go down in the history books.
Tomorrow, the men in white face the Azulgranas away from home once again. This time, however, Barcelona’s home stadium is not really home.
The objective for the visitors will be to recreate the emphatic win they recorded last season and secure a four-point lead over Barcelona in La Liga. Eleven games into the season, that would be a comfortable place for them to be in.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Real Madrid.
Advantage Real Madrid
It would be foolish to call any side the favourite in El Clasico. History is a testament that form, fitness and injuries play no role in the gargantuan fixture, with both sides always staying even on the odds.
Yet, it is difficult to not hand the slight edge to Los Blancos for tomorrow’s clash. After all, their rivals are faced with a long list of injuries that Real Madrid can capitalise upon.
For starters, the Blaugrana are arguably without their best defender so far this season in Jules Kounde. Moving to midfield, their crisis only deepens.
Xavi will be without Pedri and Frenkie de Jong, his two creative powerhouses, against Real Madrid. However, Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha are likely to be cleared to participate.
Neck-deep in injuries and with several players match-unfit, Barcelona begin the game on the back foot. Yet, they do have a fair number of starlets from their academy who have stepped up in recent games.
Real Madrid cannot be called the outright favourites would be the bookies’ choice if forced to pick sides. With a crippled Barcelona hosting them and the position of league leaders up for grabs, the motivation could not be higher for Ancelotti’s men.
Targetting the midfield
Earlier this week, word had it that Ancelotti was planning a midfield surprise for Barcelona.
As explained above, the Blaugranas’ midfield is arguably the department they most suffer from through injuries. After all, De Jong’s absence has forced Oriol Romeu into uncomfortable duties, rendering him vulnerable to the press while the impact of Pedri’s absence need not be explained.
The manager thus hopes to overload the middle of the park with his own resources, thus pressuring Barcelona into mistakes.
Earlier today, MARCA revealed that Ancelotti hoped to use Aurelien Tchouameni in the defensive midfield with Toni Kroos and Federico Valverde playing as interiors. Jude Bellingham will sit at the apex of the diamond.
Playing with such a high-pressing combination will put the hosts under pressure and prompt mistakes in their buildup, providing impetus for Real Madrid to strike on the counter.
With Luka Modric and Eduardo Camavinga arriving as impact substitutes, Los Blancos have a great chance to turn the heat up. All eyes will thus be on the midfield come Saturday. The game could well be won or lost in the space between the two boxes.
Two keys to unlock Barcelona
Real Madrid’s attack has really revolved around two players this season – Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Jr. The spotlight will once again be on the same duo when Barcelona and the Merengues lock horns tomorrow.
The former will start at the apex of midfield on paper but will look to perforate the Catalans’ defence with his disguised runs in between the lines. After all, it has proved to be his most effective weapon so far this campaign.
Bellingham will be up against a tough customer in Ronald Araujo, but if his recent form is anything to go by, nobody can stop him on his day.
Vinicius, meanwhile, will start in the front two on paper. While his role this season has been relatively central, he will undoubtedly look to exploit Barcelona’s weak defence on the flank.
Joao Cancelo is expected to start as Barcelona’s right-back, and that can only come as music to the Brazilian’s ears. With an offensive full-back on his flank, he will have all the freedom in the world to weave his magic and create openings from out wide.
For Real Madrid to come out on top, the aforementioned duo must strike. After all, they are the heart and soul of Ancelotti’s team.
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.