From a state of absolute cruise control, Real Madrid have partially caved into pressure in recent games. The men in white saw their winning streak halted after crashing out of the Copa del Rey against Atletico Madrid before coming dangerously close to a second consecutive defeat against Almeria.
The Merengues managed to salvage all three points against the lowest-ranked team in La Liga, but it is clear that the game was far from encouraging. As they step into a set of four critical games, the team’s objective will be to return to the state of cruise control.
On Saturday afternoon, Real Madrid take on Las Palmas at the Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. It will be a gruelling fixture against one of Spain’s most tireless teams who even came very close to taking points off Barcelona not long ago.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Las Palmas vs Real Madrid.
Away from distractions
There is never a silent day in Spain, more so in the world of football there. Battles between top clubs do indeed occur on the field, but there is an equal proportion of exchanges off it.
The most recent example of ruckus in the Spanish media takes one back to Real Madrid’s last game against Almeria. Los Blancos were outplayed for large parts of the game, and perhaps even deserved to lose on the night.
Yet, they walked home with three points against all odds, as has become the norm, although this time it was made possible through a combination of VAR decisions that went their way.
Starting from the handball that gifted Real Madrid a penalty to Vinicius’ goal that was scored with his shoulder, the VAR supported the men in white thrice and not without reason.
The same did not go down well with other teams in the competition. Prominent figures from Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, amongst other sides, came out vocally to protest against the VAR’s alleged partiality towards Real Madrid.
It will thus be essential for Carlo Ancelotti to keep his men isolated from the noise in the media and concentrate on the task that lies ahead. Four decisive games are coming on Los Blancos’ calendar, and winning all four would go a long way in securing the league title.
The missing talisman
The single biggest talking point ahead of Real Madrid’s clash at the weekend has to be the absence of Jude Bellingham.
Since he arrived from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, the English ace has been the team’s single-most important player across all competitions. His presence in the final third has been instrumental in scripting some of the team’s finest displays and most unbelievable comebacks.
Bellingham began the season with unreal numbers in terms of goals and assists. His goal contributions may have relatively tapered in recent games, but he continues to be one of the most important attacking outlets for Los Blancos.
Not having Bellingham through suspension, thus, is a big blow for Carlo Ancelotti. Brahim Diaz is likely to replace the Englishman tomorrow, but could the manager opt for the wildcard in Arda Guler and surprise Garcia Pimienta? Only time will tell.
Two standout defences
As impressive as Real Madrid’s attack has been this season, it is the defence that has rightfully won recognition. The men in white have been hit by setbacks to no end in the backline, but have come out against all odds to record stunning numbers in La Liga.
20 games into the season, Los Blancos have conceded just 13 goals in the league. They boast of La Liga’s best defensive record by a mile, and to do so with several injuries is no mean feat.
The league’s second-best defence, in that sense, is Las Palmas. Garcia Pimienta’s men have conceded just 17 goals in 21 games, averaging less than one goal conceded per game.
Las Palmas are one of the league’s most well-oiled and passionate sides who look very comfortable in possession. They have only improved as the season has progressed, making tomorrow’s clash a tricky one for Real Madrid.
For starters, it will be the showdown between the league’s two best defences and a test of who will crack first. Further, it will also be a test of two polar opposite styles of football with Las Palmas hoping to dominate the game in terms of possession.
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.