The tests keep coming for Real Madrid. After a disappointing defeat to Atletico Madrid last weekend, the men in white took down Las Palmas at the Santiago Bernabeu to return to winning ways.
They now face their third game in seven days as they travel to Catalonia to take on Girona in a testing fixture. Real Madrid may be the favourites, but the game will be anything but easy for Los Blancos.
Carlo Ancelotti has several decisions to take on the night, especially given that his team face Napoli and Copa del Rey runners-up Osasuna in their next two games.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Girona vs. Real Madrid.
Clash of the table-toppers
Girona have been one of the revelations of the 2023/24 campaign. The Catalan club started the season with a draw against Real Sociedad at San Sebastian but have been unstoppable ever since.
Michel’s men went on to win all six of their games after the initial hiccup and currently sit atop the leaderboard with a stunning total of 19 points. What is more impressive is the fact that they have, alongside Barcelona, scored the most number of goals this season at 18.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men are not far behind in terms of results. With six wins and one loss so far, they sit in second place with 18 points. Saturday’s game, in all senses, will be a clash between two of Spain’s in-form and table-topping sides.
Playing at Estadi Motilivi will be no easy run for Real Madrid despite the big names in the squad. Debilitated by injuries, Ancelotti’s men face one of their toughest challenges tomorrow, especially accounting for their hectic schedule and compulsion to rotate.
A win tomorrow will assure Real Madrid the numero uno spot, but a defeat could potentially push them down to third. Needless to say, it will be a critical result from a leaderboard standpoint.
A team of multiple threats
While Girona’s feat of scoring 18 goals in seven games is remarkable, what makes it further staggering is the distribution of goalscorers.
Michel’s men have not depended on any single player to put the ball into the back of the net. In fact, one cannot even state with certainty that their forward line contributes the lion’s share of goals.
Midfielder Yangel Herrera is the team’s top scorer in La Liga with three goals to his name. However, he is not the only midfielder to score for the team as Aleix Garcia, Viktor Tsygankov, Portu, and Ivan Martin all have a goal each to their names.
Michel’s side play with a unique 4-1-4-1 formation and do not hesitate to push forward in numbers. The second line of four provides them with sufficient bodies in attack and also partly explains why a significant number of their goals come from midfield.
Apart from the threat lurking from the players behind the forward, players like David Lopez, Yan Couto, and Eric Garcia have contributed to the scoresheet from the defence. Further, forwards like Savinho, Artem Dovbyk, and Cristhian Stuani require no introduction.
The pressure will be on Real Madrid’s defence on Saturday at Montilivi Stadium. With threats coming from all parts of the park, the Merengues must be alert and on their toes at all times against the league leaders.
And then there were two
Just as Real Madrid were celebrating the returns of Dani Ceballos, Ferland Mendy, and Dani Carvajal, matters have once again gone awry for Ancelotti’s men.
Real Madrid’s defence suffered its biggest and most significant blow early in the season when Eder Militao was diagnosed with an ACL tear. The Brazilian was thus slated as unavailable for the remainder of the campaign, pushing the responsibility on David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger’s shoulders.
The duo have not enjoyed the best of chemistries so far, with the defeat to Atletico Madrid serving as the prime example. Yet, Alaba and Rudiger pulled along well and oversaw seven wins for the team.
Los Blancos’ most recent game against Las Palmas brought with it more setbacks. Both Rudiger and Alaba suffered injuries on the night with the latter even coming off after his injury.
As it stands, the Austrian international will not be available for the clash against Girona. Rudiger, meanwhile, could feature tomorrow, with Ancelotti confirming his situation is not serious.
With just the German defender and Nacho Fernandez as the options remaining, Ancelotti is treading a tight-rope. Going up against arguably Spain’s most in-form team, the vulnerable defence could prove to be a liability.
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.