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Three talking points ahead of Elche vs Real Madrid

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Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid will face Elche at Estadio Martinez Valero tonight as they look to solidify their position at the top of the La Liga table. It will be a game between teams on two extremes of the table and Los Blancos enter as the undisputed favourites.

The men in white have not lost against Elche in nine games and are on a 16-game unbeaten streak. Fresh off their win over Barcelona in El Clasico, the team is more motivated than ever to keep their spirits soaring.

Seven games remain in Los Blancos‘ schedule before the team disperses for the FIFA World Cup. The objective will be to secure a healthy lead before the international break without taking any games for granted. Despite Real Madrid being overwhelming favourites on paper, Carlo Ancelotti cannot afford to take Elche lightly.

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

1. An easy game on paper

The defending champions played their last game on Sunday and already face their next opposition at Estadio Martinez Valero on Wednesday. There is no respite for Real Madrid for they must step out on the turf again 72 hours later when they face Sevilla at the weekend.

In their congested schedule, the fixture against Elche could be the saving grace. To say that Jorge Almiron’s side are struggling in La Liga would be an understatement and one would expect the visitors to put them away with ease, at least in theory.

While Real Madrid are in first place in the league table, Elche are exactly at the opposite pole. With no wins and six losses in their first nine games in the league, the hosts sit at rock bottom.

They have conceded a staggering 21 goals so far and scored just six times. After five successive losses in early September, they bounced back with two ties in their last two games. Yet, there is no denying that they have been dull and uninspiring.

Real Madrid will look to use this opportunity as a springboard to extend their lead atop the standings and put pressure on Barcelona who face a difficult opposition in Villarreal. However, a loss would undo all the hard work put in by the team during El Clasico.

2. Rotations in a hectic week

Knowing well that the midweek fixture is the closest to a rest his players can get, Ancelotti must use the opportunity to rotate his team. The need for rotation becomes even direr when one considers that the men in white take on Sevilla at the weekend.

Thibaut Courtois is still unavailable, implying that Andriy Lunin will get another start under his belt. The changes on the night could begin in the defence with Antonio Rudiger well-placed to replace David Alaba. One could also expect changes at right-back as Dani Carvajal could take a rest with Lucas Vazquez deployed in his place.

In midfield, Luka Modric will likely start on the bench as Ancelotti will prefer the Croat to start against Sevilla. Eduardo Camavinga has chances to start versus Elche alongside Aurelien Tchouameni and Toni Kroos.

The forward department is a story of its own, for the manager must take some big calls. Vinicius Jr has been vital in all of Los Blancos’ games so far and undoubtedly needs rest. Rodrygo could start in place of his compatriot with Karim Benzema and Federico Valverde completing the lineup.

3. The Ballon d’Or winner on the field

On Monday night, Karim Benzema stepped onto the dais of Theatre du Chatelet in Paris and lifted the prestigious Ballon d’Or. It was undoubtedly the moment where the Frenchman’s career as a footballer peaked as he joins Luka Modric in the elite list.

His start to the new season has been difficult but the striker seemingly returned to form in El Clasico just a day before the Ballon d’Or ceremony. Scoring one goal and having one disallowed for a marginal offside call, he looked dangerous in the final third.

Now, Benzema will look to get his season well and truly up and running. The objective will be to return to his free-scoring form and the game against Elche serves as the perfect platform.

Almiron’s side have been a wreck defensively this season and will be the perfect prey for the Frenchman who will be looking for a feast. With the World Cup just around the corner, Benzema must return to his elements.

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Three talking points ahead of Manchester City vs Real Madrid

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Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The big Champions League nights seldom disappoint, and the first-leg quarterfinal results last week in this year’s edition were no different.

The four games cumulatively saw 18 goals scored, none of which were overwhelmingly convincing, thus leaving the ground level ahead of the decisive second legs.

Of the four fixtures that unfolded last week, the clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City was the most entertaining, by far.

An enthralling 3-3 draw saw both Los Blancos and Pep Guardiola’s men pull off mini-comebacks on the night before they eventually split the spoils and left everything to be decided at the Etihad Stadium.

Tomorrow, the two European giants face off again in Manchester in a game that will grant the victor a spot in the semifinal of this season’s Champions League.

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

New year, new team

As Real Madrid head to the Etihad to take part in the decisive second leg, they invariably confront some horrific memories at the arena.

For starters, the men in white have never beaten Manchester City at the Etihad in an official game. Of the teams’ last three meetings at the venue over the past four years, City have always come out on top at home.

Los Blancos’ most recent recollection of the venue does not help in any way either. After all, they headed to England last season after a draw in the first leg at home, only to be destroyed by a 4-0 margin by Pep Guardiola’s men.

Fast forward one year, the Spanish giants once again failed to secure an advantage in the home fixture. To qualify for the semifinal, they must not only conquer the Etihad’s curse but also get past the ghosts of last year.

A lot has changed in Carlo Ancelotti’s setup since the two sides last met. Karim Benema’s departure, Jude Bellingham’s arrival, and the rise of new stars in goal and defence are just some of the innumerable variations that have grown into the Madrid-based entity.

Ancelotti’s primary goal tomorrow, thus, should be to keep the morale and belief of his men high. It is a new year, a new team, and history plays no part in how the game plays out.

The defensive situation

Rudiger and Nacho likely to start in defence. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)

Ancelotti was faced with a defensive dilemma ahead of Real Madrid’s first leg last week. Of the available options, he opted to go with Aurelien Tchouameni to partner Antonio Rudiger, purely because of the Frenchman’s prowess in aerial duels.

While Tchouameni did do a good job, he is suspended for tomorrow’s clash leaving the Italian coach in a tricky situation in defence.

His Plan B, Eder Militao, is not fit enough to start, and everything indicates that Nacho will be the player to start alongside the German.

Tomorrow’s game at Etihad will be a personal battle for Rudiger, for he was dropped the last time Real Madrid played at the venue and watched his team’s destruction from the sidelines.

Now arriving as the leader of defence, he will make it his objective to prove that Ancelotti’s decision to drop him a year ago was costly. After all, he has efficiently defended against Erling Haaland in all his meetings with the Norwegian.

An equal share of the spotlight will shine on Nacho, whose aerial ability will be tested, and Ferland Mendy, who suffered against Bernardo Silva a week ago.

Clarity in approach

Real Madrid differ from other top European clubs in one primary respect. Unlike the goal of competitors to play a beautiful game, dominate the proceedings and assert authority, Los Blancos purely concern themselves with the result.

Be it ugly or an exquisitely crafted display, the win and qualification are all that Ancelotti aims for. The aforementioned approach has largely pioneered the team’s success over the years.

Heading into tomorrow’s clash, it is thus imperative that Real Madrid have the right idea of what to expect.

It will be close to impossible to dominate proceedings against a well-oiled Pep Guardiola team, nor will it be simple to boast of possession. As such, the Merengues will likely be forced to defend deep for large parts of the game.

What will be critical, however, are the few chances they get on the counter-attack. The likes of Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo Goes, Jude Bellingham and Federico Valverde will be crucial if the team is to hit on the break with efficiency, and their form will account for a large part of the result.

The goal tomorrow, thus, must not be to dominate the game but purely to walk out victors. It might not turn out to be beautiful, but will surely be memorable should it work out.

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