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Three talking points ahead of Elche vs Real Madrid



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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Goals, energy, leadership: Three things Bellingham can offer to Real Madrid



Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

Real Madrid have been notoriously heavy spenders in the summer transfer market in the past but have not spent an awful lot over the last few seasons due to financial restrictions and their team finding its peak at the right time.

Real Madrid did shell out close to €100 million for Aurelien Tchouameni last year, and got Eduardo Camavinga in the summer of 2021 for around €400 million, too.

It does seem like they have a huge summer planned ahead of them, though. The club plans to splash some cash on multiple positions, including centre-forward, right-wing, central midfield, and across the defence.

Some targets are laid out for these positions, with Kylian Mbappe naturally being on the list.

However, one definite target for Madrid that’s been well-established already is Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham. His price tag is set at around €100-140 million, and Los Blancos are among the teams leading the race for his signature, alongside Manchester City and Liverpool.

The Englishman has an obviously high ceiling and is already among the best players in his position in Europe. Moreover, he adds depth across various skillsets and attributes that Real Madrid currently lack or will lack as the clock marches on.

Madrid Universal explores three different things Bellingham can bring to the table for an already talented Galacticos side.

Goals from midfield

Despite not playing an advanced role, Bellingham is a rather experienced poacher in the box. This comes with his thorough understanding of offensive routines, and timing his runs to perfection in the box.

Being 6’1″ and physically gifted, the teenager can attack crosses and passes into the box with ease. He boasts of a rather impressive leap as well, which was more than visible during the World Cup, when he opened the scoring against Iran.

The English midfielder has scored four goals in the league for Dortmund, and has accumulated an xG of 5.25 across the season. That is nearly two more than Madrid’s highest scoring midfielder – Luka Modric.

Currently, Madrid’s goals are rather lopsidedly dependent on the forward line, with Toni Kroos and Modric just chipping in with a combined six goals in the league out of a possible 51.

While both players, and Camavinga, are adept at shooting from range, neither quite provide the box threat or the third-man runs Madrid are currently craving for.

Goal machine. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Once Karim Benzema or Vinicius Jr are boxed out of the game, Carlo Ancelotti’s side struggle with ideas, and are often stuck in a pattern of crossing and hoping for the best.

And even with that, Bellingham could prove to be an excellent solution to their problems, coming up with late runs into the box and attacking crosses and loose balls.

Youthful energy

Far too many times this season, Ancelotti has been criticised for using Modric and Kroos in the same midfield. Especially when their bench holds the likes of Camavinga, Dani Ceballos, and sometimes even Federico Valverde.

However, it is clear that these players have been delegated to certain roles in midfield. Camavinga and Tchouameni shuffle as pivot options, while Ceballos is called upon add more creativity in the centre of the park.

Bellingham, while far from the best ball retainer, certainly has energy and lungs for days. He can run from box to box, receive and turn in a crowded midfield, and chase the ball till the 90.

While they have Valverde in a similar mould, the Uruguayan has been tasked with running the right-wing more often than not, at least under Ancelotti. It will be interesting to see how another coach would utilise both players to their respective strengths should the transfer go through.

Long-term captaincy candidate

At 19, Bellingham has already shown signs of becoming a captain for any side he plays for, for years to come. He has donned the armband for Dortmund several times this season already, and was first awarded with it in October, becoming the youngest captain in Bundesliga history.

Captain material. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

Currently, he holds the position of third captain for Dortmund, behind Marco Reus and Mats Hummels, but has already held the armband multiple times, including twice in the UEFA Champions League.

While Madrid have a fair few leaders in their ranks, including and not limited to the likes of Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and David Alaba, Bellingham has clearly proved that he is not only capable of taking on a leadership role, but also spearheading any side for years to come.

If all works out, the price tag of €120+ million will soon start to pale in comparison to the attributes he brings to the table alongside his unbelievably high ceiling and longevity.

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