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Three talking points ahead of Mallorca vs Real Madrid

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Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

After an enthralling 3-3 draw against Manchester City in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal tie, Real Madrid are set to return to action in La Liga tomorrow.

Los Blancos take the trip to the Island of Mallorca where they will engage in a battle against Javier Aguirre’s well-oiled RCD Mallorca.

Aguirre’s men currently sit in 15th place in La Liga after 30 games, but the league standings do not do justice to the good form they have shown all season.

After all, they are this season’s defeated finalists of Copa del Rey, a competition Real Madrid bid adieu to in the Round of 16.

The last time Los Blancos took on Mallorca, they scraped past with a tight 1-0 win thanks to an Antonio Rudiger strike in the 79th minute. Now playing at the opposition’s fortress, the game will require more grit.

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

A virtual finale

Real Madrid have always been one to prioritise the UEFA Champions League over any other competition in the calendar year. After all, the European competition represents the pinnacle of football and is the peak Los Blancos strive to conquer.

The scenario this season, however, is different. Real Madrid have invested a lot into this season’s La Liga campaign and are deservedly leaders in the same. They have seldom faltered in the competition, and have only suffered one defeat in 30 games.

With eight games to go, they boast of an eight-point lead over Barcelona, but with El Clasico just around the corner, there is still tangible danger. The weekend’s clash against Mallorca, thus, is crucial as the men in white cannot afford to drop points.

As revealed earlier this week, the Real Madrid camp see the game at Son Moix to be a potential final and are completely invested in getting all three points.

Their situation in the UEFA Champions League and the all-important second leg next week is not playing on their mind and will not affect the team’s plan in any manner.

“The whole squad will be available and the priority is tomorrow, not Manchester. We have a lot at stake but like all teams. We remain confident and tomorrow is vital,” Carlo Ancelotti said in his pre-match press conference, after all.

Rotating in moderation

While indeed Real Madrid will look to go all out against Javier Aguirre’s side, it is inevitable that Ancelotti will mildly rotate his squad in view of the second leg against Manchester City.

Ancelotti to rotate his troops vs Mallorca. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images)

After all, the Italian gaffer has high-quality options on his bench who can take over on the field with minimal reduction in quality on the field.

For starters, one can expect Joselu to take Rodrygo’s place in attack on the night, especially given that the Brazilian sensation did not train with the team today after sustaining a knock.

Vinicius Jr, meanwhile, will start in all likelihood as the 23-year-old is the team’s single most important resource in attack.

Moving to midfield, Brahim Diaz could well take Jude Bellingham’s place at Son Moix, killing two birds with one stone.

Not only will his inclusion give the English star a chance to rest before the second leg but also provide Diaz himself an audition to make his case as a starter against Pep Guardiola’s side.

Luka Modric could take Toni Kroos’ spot in the starting lineup, and it would not be a bad idea for the manager to give Arda Guler a run as a starter on the night. Aurelien Tchouameni, given his suspension for the reverse fixture, will play as the pivot.

Nacho, who was benched in the last game, could return to the lineup alongside Eder Militao in central defence. Finally, Lucas Vazquez and Fran Garcia would replace Daniel Carvajal and Ferland Mendy respectively.

The Eder Militao factor

The big talking point from the Merengues’ clash against Athletic Club last weekend was the return of Eder Militao from injury.

Coming onto the field of play in stoppage time, the Brazilian received a hero’s welcome from the Bernabeu as he played his first minutes in eight months.

Ancelotti’s initial idea was to incorporate Militao into the team’s dynamics slowly so as to avoid risking a relapse. Now, however, there has been a drastic turn of events.

Tchouameni’s suspension for the return leg against Manchester City places the coach in a tight spot over his central-defensive pairing. After all, he does not trust Nacho to cover the aerial threat against Guardiola’s side.

Militao, thus, is a real option to start against Manchester City, and Ancelotti did not rule out the possibility in his recent press conference.

“I repeat what I said: they are all available and tomorrow I will put out the best team. Militao is also available,” he said, declaring that he had no intention of being cautious with Militao.

It thus remains to be seen to what extent the coach utilises Militao’s services against Mallorca and how fit the Brazilian is in reality. After all, his display tomorrow will go a long way in deciding Real Madrid’s plan against City.

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Three talking points ahead of Villarreal vs Real Madrid

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Jude Bellingham, Vinicius Jr, Federico Valverde and Arda Guler were all on target when Real Madrid demolished Deportivo Alaves by a 5-0 scoreline midweek.

The win at the Santiago Bernabeu took the team to 93 points in La Liga, with the champion status already earned. The target now, however, is to reach the magical number of 99 points.

Tomorrow, Los Blancos step on the field for their penultimate league clash of the season as they lock horns against Villarreal.

Their opponents, currently placed eighth in the league, are fighting for a place in Europe and must win tomorrow at Estadio de La Ceramica if they are to remain in the race.

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

Can Bellingham maintain the steam?

Jude Bellingham’s dip in form towards the end of the season raised many concerns in the Real Madrid offices over his fitness and physical state. A mini ‘pre-season’ was said to be in the manager’s plan, especially keeping Bellingham’s recovery in mind.

The young midfielder, however, started the team’s game against Deportivo Alaves once more despite rumours of him being rested and dished out a classic on the night. His performance, in many senses, was one that announced his return to form.

In 90 minutes against Alaves, Bellingham scored one goal and provided two assists as the game ended 5-0 in Real Madrid’s favour.

Furthermore, the former Borussia Dortmund star recorded a staggering 121 touches, 99 passes, six key passes and created one big chance. He also completed four dribbles on the night and participated in eight defensive actions.

It thus becomes a serious question ahead of tomorrow’s clash as to how Carlo Ancelotti plans on managing Bellingham’s minutes.

The obvious approach would be to field the youngster from the start and reward his improved performance at the weekend. Concurrently, however, there is concern over the midfielder being overused which inhibits the manager from such a move.

Will Bellingham start against Villarreal or will the likes of Brahim Diaz or Arda Guler get a deserved start? Only time will tell.

Lunin’s heroic exit

Thibaut Courtois’ injury before the commencement of the new season left Real Madrid with a crisis in goal. The repercussions of the blow, however, were not as dire as expected courtesy of Andriy Lunin’s exceptional performances.

Lunin could play his final game of the season vs Villarreal. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Despite starting the campaign behind Kepa Arrizabalaga on the pecking order, the Ukrainian international has done enough to become the team’s primary goalkeeper across all competitions.

Only Courtois’ return last month displaced him from the starting lineup as the manager prioritised bringing the Belgian superstar back to full fitness.

Real Madrid now plan on starting Courtois for the big UCL final at Wembley next month.

While unfair on Lunin who deserves the start, one cannot blame Ancelotti for relying on the player who single-handedly kept the team in the game the last time they featured in a European final.

With Courtois set to start against Real Betis and Borrusia Dortmund, tomorrow could well be Lunin’s final game of the season for Real Madrid and the 25-year-old will look to depart with a bang.

Momentum is paramount

Real Madrid have already been crowned the champions of La Liga, and every game that remains in the competition at this point only serves as a practice encounter for the big challenge that lies ahead.

Los Blancos take on Borussia Dortmund in the finale of the UCL early next month, and only two games remain before the season-defining encounter. A lot, needless to say, will depend on how Ancelotti manages his squad for the two matches that lie ahead.

Considering that the calendar is no longer as hectic as it was a month ago, the manager could well field his best XI against Villarreal aiming to keep the momentum going for his side. After all, it is paramount at this stage in the season.

At the same time, however, the manager must rotate his squad ahead to give fringe players some deserved minutes and balance the playing time of regular starters.

Los Blancos, at this point, are unbeaten in 23 games across all competitions and have the momentum fairly on their side. Maintaining it with a positive result tomorrow irrespective of the final decision on the extent of rotations will thus be crucial for the Merengues.

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