Two weeks and a world of pain later, Real Madrid return to the field on Sunday for Matchday 14 of La Liga when they face Cadiz. The campaign thus far has been anything but easy, and the coming weeks once again bring a hectic schedule to the table of the Merengues.
There is a world of uncertainty over the status of Carlo Ancelotti’s players ahead of the clash against Cadiz. Some players are injured, others partially fit while a third set are overworked and under-rested. Juggling between the three aforementioned sets presents the manager with some critical decisions ahead of kickoff.
Cadiz boast of just ten points in 12 games in La Liga this season. With only three points separating them from the relegation zone, a defeat tomorrow could well see them enter the danger zone and thus gives them impetus to go out all guns blazing.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Cadiz vs Real Madrid.
Angst in midfield
Ancelotti is no stranger to handling situations with heavily understaffed departments. Over his long and illustrious career as a manager, he has seen many a day under similar circumstances and come out with tactical workarounds.
Yet, one cannot help but be worried about Real Madrid’s midfield heading into the first game after the international break.
Aurelien Tchouameni’s injury after El Clasico, in itself, was a massive blow to Ancelotti’s plans. The Frenchman was the team’s best defensive midfield option by a country mile and had found his best form in recent weeks.
Adding Eduardo Camavinga to that list only makes the situation direr. With them ruled out, the manager loses two of his most reliable weapons in the middle. More importantly, he is now left without a natural pivot.
Everything indicates that Toni Kroos will start at the base of the diamond midfield on Sunday night. Luka Modric and Federico Valverde, both of whom had hectic schedules with their national teams, are likely to start as the interiors against Cadiz.
The mainstay in midfield, Jude Bellingham, is expected to return to action at the apex of the diamond, having recuperated from his shoulder injury.
If Los Blancos’ midfield department is in jeopardy, the forward lineup is in a whole new world of pain.
The men in white began the season with only three natural attacking options – Vinicius Jr, Joselu and Rodrygo Goes. Of them, the former was quite clearly the most pivotal.
Vinicius’ absence was felt when Real Madrid lost his services through injury in the early parts of the season. The team’s level on the field fell drastically, but a collective effort and a few moments of brilliance helped them through the lean patch.
The Brazilian now finds himself injured again, this time for a period of over two months. Moreover, Rodrygo will be forced to be in the starting lineup just after recovering from a knee issue.
Ancelotti thus has a serious problem at his hands. With one fit, one semi-fit, and an unfit player as his only three options for the final third, will the manager opt to deploy an extra midfielder on the day? Could Brahim Diaz be the solution? Only time will tell.
No room for error
Thirteen matchdays into La Liga, Real Madrid are well-placed on the league table. The men in white are one of the four teams fighting for the top spot and are amongst the most consistent teams in the tournament.
Ancelotti’s men have won a staggering ten of their 13 games so far this campaign. Of the remaining three, they drew twice and lost once and thus sit on 32 of a possible 39 points.
Yet, they are not at the pinnacle of the table. Girona’s blitzkrieg in the first phase of the season sees them firmly in the driver’s seat with 34 points, two clear of second-placed Real Madrid. Interestingly, they have scored more goals in La Liga this season than even the Merengues.
With the league race turning into a really tight battle, Los Blancos also find themselves treading a tightrope. They do not have the liberty to drop points in any of their upcoming games, for the risk of falling behind is always lurking around.
Considering that Girona take on Athletic Club, Real Madrid’s win against Cadiz would put pressure on the Catalan side who play late on Monday night. More importantly, it would bring the steam onto the Merengues’ side ahead of a difficult fixture against Napoli.
Real Madrid 1-0 Sevilla: Player Ratings
Following Barcelona’s convincing 4-0 win against Getafe yesterday, the onus was on Real Madrid to reinstate the eight-point gap between the sides as they hosted Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu today.
Lucas Vazquez opened the scoring for los blancos after ten minutes, but the goal was controversially disallowed for a foul on Youssef En-Nesyri in the build-up.
Madrid found it difficult to unlock Sevilla’s defence after that, with the first-half ending 0-0 after just one shot on target from both teams combined.
Madrid started the second 45 with more intent, creating some better scoring opportunities, but were left without success until an unbelievable effort from Luka Modric scathed the post and went in.
Sergio Ramos put in a wonderful performance on his return to the Santiago Bernabeu for Sevilla, but it was not enough as Madrid escaped with all three points and an eight-point lead on top of the table.
Andriy Lunin: 8
Was not called into action in the first-half, and was pretty much faultless in possession. But made an incredible save off Romero’s effort in the second half and was extremely proactive collecting crosses, too. Game-changing.
Lucas Vazquez: 7
Did a good job overlapping and was unlucky that his goal was disallowed. Did well to deal with Romero and Ocampos defensively.
Antonio Rudiger: 6.5
Rudiger was lucky that Romero and En-Nesyri did not convert their efforts from close range, as he often left space in behind. Went up to attack with the score at 0-0, too, but came back fruitless.
Was substituted off after 75 minutes after an mostly average display. Again, lucky that he was not punished for the space he left behind.
Ferland Mendy: 7
A few decent moves for Mendy today, but for the most part, his inability to overlap properly gave Vinicius too much to do.
Federico Valverde: 8
By far the most active midfielder today, Valverde was everywhere. Ran the show for Madrid, both in possession and stopping counter attacks before they even started. Missed the easiest chance of the game, though.
Aurelien Tchouameni: 6.5
Did his job as the 6 well, kept the game ticking and kept finding the spare man in midfield. Moved back to the defence eventually, and came away with a clean sheet.
Toni Kroos: 7
With Madrid struggling to break through Sevilla’s defence, Kroos was tasked with a lot of deep progression. Created some tame chances here and there, but failed to find properly find a man through.
Brahim Diaz: 7.5
Kept Kike Salas and Ocampos on their toes, making some tremendous solo runs from deep, but was often left without support. Created a brilliant chance for Valverde, that was scuffed.
Did not take many risks in possesion, but was crucial in Vinicius and Brahim finding space on the wing by offering support.
Vinicius Jr: 7.5
With the Sevilla defence looking very organised, the onus was on Vinicius to create something out of nothing. He attempted a few different things, including flicking the ball over players and attempting shots from distance, but all unsuccessful.
Has to be credited for the effort, though, especially with the rest of the team lacking.
Luka Modric: 8.5
Super-sub Luka Modric coming in clutch for Madrid today with his wonder goal from outside the box. Was also brilliant in possession, increasing the tempo of the game.