On Friday night, Real Madrid returned to action after the World Cup with a 2-0 win over Real Valladolid in La Liga. The defending champions did not produce their best football for eighty minutes, but a late surge in the final third and a Karim Benzema brace in six minutes helped them secure three points.
On Tuesday, they step onto the grass again, this time to commence their campaign in Copa del Rey. They face CP Cacereno in a single-legged Round of 32 fixture and will have to weather the storm in their opponents’ own backyard.
All eyes will be on Carlo Ancelotti on the night to see how he manages his men, especially given that his side must face Villarreal in less than 72 hours after tomorrow’s game. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Los Blancos‘ Copa del Rey curtain-raiser.
1. A competiton that has eluded the team for too long
It was during the 2013-14 season that Real Madrid took on Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final, winning it by a scoreline of 2-1. The game at Mestalla is firmly rooted in the memory of fans, but it is astounding that the club have not won the competition ever since.
Close to a decade later, Real Madrid are yet to even reach a Copa del Rey final. The men in white have been eliminated from the competition year after year on the back of embarrassing defeats. The reason – a mixture of poor fortune and possibly, complacency.
Last season, they fell prey to Athletic Club in the quarterfinal stage after conceding a late winner from Alex Berenguer in the 89th minute. This time around, Carlo Ancelotti will be determined to take his men all the way in the Spanish Cup.
The manager explicitly stated in his press conference that it had been a long time since the team tasted triumph in the cup and that they would push for it this season. With the squad rejuvenated after the international break, Los Blancos will go out with all guns firing against Cacereno.
2. The chance to test the reserves
Rescheduling the FIFA World Cup to the winter was a move that saw severe backlash, especially because it congested the club football calendar on either side.
Now having to complete over half the season’s total games in five months, top European sides face extremely tight calendars with a game every three days.
Needless to say, rotation is key in such situations. The Copa del Rey presented the best possible chance for the manager to shuffle his cards, and given that their opposition play in the Segunda RFEF, Real Madrid could field a completely rotated side on Tuesday.
Andriy Lunin will almost certainly start in goal after impressing with his performances early in the season. His goal could be covered by a centre-back duo of Nacho Fernandez and Eder Militao.
Dani Carvajal will be rested for Lucas Vazquez on the night while Ferland Mendy could be rested. In midfield, one could expect Eduardo Camavinga, Dani Ceballos and Aurelien Tchouameni to feature with the veterans rested.
With Karim Benzema set to be rested, Rodrygo Goes is best placed to start as the striker with Marco Asensio taking duties on the right flank. Eden Hazard is set to be given an opportunity on the left flank, as was confirmed by Ancelotti in his presser after the Valladolid clash.
3. A show of no mercy
Real Madrid are a club traditionally associated with merciless football with no element of empathy or complacency. However, that has changed in the Copa del Rey in recent years as the team have taken the competition and inferior opposition for granted. Rightfully so, they have been punished accordingly.
If the Merengues are to go all the way in the competition this year, they must return to their brand of ruthless football. Be the opposition a Champions League-calibre side or one from the third division, the men in white must churn out their best displays and look to assert their dominance.
Cacereno may not be a well-known side or even a top team for that matter. However, it is usually such sides that have the underdog card that permits them to play fearless and attacking football.
Ancelotti’s men will have to be wary in defence, for their opponents have nothing to lose. A win would be wildly celebrated but a loss would not be a loss in any practical sense for the Caceres-based side.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Granada | La Liga
Napoli fought tooth and nail for all three points against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this week. They took the early lead in the first half, then fought back to find an equaliser after Real Madrid put two past them.
In the end, however, they were outdone by the hosts’ resilience and never-say-die attitude. The result thus registered Real Madrid’s fourth win on the trot and twelfth game without a defeat.
The men in white must now look ahead to their next La Liga game scheduled to kick off in just over 24 hours. Faced against Granada in a critical matchday, the aim will be to take all three points and thus maintain a healthy position in the standings.
Ancelotti announced some key recoveries in his pre-match press conference and also confirmed that Jude Bellingham would be fit to participate on the evening. Yet, he is concurrently in a difficult moment in terms of squad fitness.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Granada vs Real Madrid.
A clash of two poles
While Ancelotti’s Real Madrid sit lavishly on the top of La Liga’s standings, their opponents for Saturday afternoon have quite a contrasting fate. Granada sit on the other end of the league table and find themselves in a desolate situation 14 match days into the season.
Granada are currently 19th in La Liga with just one win in 14 games, and have changed managers, with Alexander Medina replacing Paco Lopez. They have lost a staggering nine games and walked away with one point on four occasions.
Granada have only scored 19 goals all season while conceding on 33 occasions. Comparing the numbers to Real Madrid’s 31 goals scored and nine goals conceded speaks volumes about the form of both teams heading into tomorrow’s clash.
The visitors’ last win in La Liga came back in August, and it is safe to say that a victory vs Real Madrid will do them a world of good. They will be the underdogs at the Bernabeu, but nothing is impossible considering that they drew with Barcelona not so long ago.
Saturday’s clash will thus be interesting, to say the least. With the injury-inflicted league leaders taking on a relegation-threatened side, the script cannot be predicted.
The rising phenomenon
Real Madrid’s injury crisis has not been easy on the manager. Ancelotti has been forced to rework his dynamics time and time again with a new player falling prey to the endless pit in every game.
The Italian is now in a situation where he has only four players left in the middle of the park. Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, Jude Bellingham, and Dani Ceballos all started Real Madrid’s last game but it was young Nico Paz who stole the headlines.
The youngster has risen to prominence in Los Blancos’ latest injury emergency and his prominence has only increased over the past weeks. In the team’s latest outing against Napoli, he was on the field for close to half an hour and scored a crucial goal in the 84th minute.
With a tight schedule ahead and limited resources at his disposal, Ancelotti must look to rotate his men in midfield. Paz, on that front, is the Italian gaffer’s best choice and must look to make the most of his minutes tomorrow.
The golden chance
The biggest talking point from La Liga so far has been Girona’s stunning run at the beginning of the season. The Catalan side surprised everyone with win after win and stole the headlines by retaining the sole lead in the league until match day 13.
After six straight wins, Athletic Club broke Girona’s streak last weekend with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Estadi Montilivi. Having dropped two points, they are now level with Real Madrid in the standings with 35 points in 14 games.
It will thus be Ancelotti’s objective to take all three points against Granada and make a strong push towards taking the lead over Girona. After all, the co-leaders face a difficult opponent in Valencia and could well drop points.
Moreover, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are set to face off later this weekend. One, or both of the Spanish giants will drop points on the night, thus giving Real Madrid further impetus to gun for all three points tomorrow.
Considering the team’s good run of form in recent games, the dressing room will be confident about securing the much-needed result.