Three talking points ahead of Osasuna vs Real Madrid
Before their much-anticipated trip to Liverpool, Real Madrid face one last challenge in Spain in Pamplona. The men in white face off against a relatively out of form, yet formidable Osasuna side at Estadio El Sadar on Saturday night.
Osasuna are on a three-game winless streak but made it to the semifinals of the Copa del Rey last month with a thrilling win over Sevilla. They have won eight of their 21 games this season in La Liga and currently sit in ninth place with 30 points.
Carlo Ancelotti will want his side to sail abroad with a win in the bag and the pressure on Barcelona. However, he will not have the entire squad at his disposal against Osasuna having taken the decision to completely rest some stars.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Osasuna vs Real Madrid.
1. Another night sans-Benzema
After his record-breaking season in 2021/22, Karim Benzema was expected to lead Real Madrid’s attack once again in red-hot form in the new campaign. However, Los Blancos have largely had to operate without their captain this term and will have to do so one more time on Saturday night.
The French striker is indeed in complete fitness and not under any sort of setback. However, Ancelotti revealed in his pre-match press conference that Benzema was fatigued, prompting him to give the Ballon d’Or winner some rest to keep him fresh for the Champions League.
Ancelotti’s only backup striker, Mariano Diaz, also misses the trip to Pamplona, thus putting pressure on the remaining forwards to make the most of their chances.
In Benzema’s absence, Rodrygo Goes is best placed to start as the No.9. The Brazilian international does not promise to fill the void left by the French striker, but has a knack in front of goal that could come good.
He is expected to be flanked by Vinicius Jr to his left side. His compatriot will have the spotlight on him as the team’s chief orchestrator in attack and must bring his A game to Estadio El Sadar in a complicated fixture.
The attacking trio could likely be completed by Federico Valverde, who has been a force to reckon with on the right wing in recent appearances.
2. The French swap
Aurelien Tchouameni’s injury was a blessing in disguise for the Real Madrid management. Forced to look for options in the defensive midfielder’s absence, Ancelotti uncovered a gem in Eduardo Camavinga as he found the French international a new position on the field.
Tchouameni recently returned to action but found himself up against unfamiliar competition. The 23-year-old started both games in the Club World Cup and steered his team to glory, but started on the bench for the subsequent league fixture against Elche.
The Italian tactician explicitly stated in his press conference that Tchouameni has slightly dropped in form after the World Cup, adding that Camavinga was in better touch. The former Rennes man’s performance against Elche was a testament to the same, making 110 touches in 90 minutes and recording north of 20 defensive actions.
The battle for a starting spot in defensive midfield has never been so competitive in recent history at Real Madrid. With both Frenchmen in a constant tussle to outdo each other, Ancelotti only stands to gain.
Tchouameni is set to return to the starting lineup against Osasuna at El Sadar, however, it remains to be seen how he performs under the pressure of potentially losing his spot.
3. The final trip before Anfield
Liverpool may not be in the best domestic form in the Premier League this season. However, if history has taught us anything, form is immaterial in the UEFA Champions League.
Ancelotti’s men will face a stern test at Anfield next week, facing the Merseyside team at their famed den. The manager, thus, will undoubtedly have the theme of the European game running in his mind throughout Saturday’s match.
Yet, his men cannot take their eyes off the ball on Saturday. Osasuna may sit ninth in the league standings, but have held Real Madrid to a draw in three of their last six games against them. As they say, nothing is guaranteed at El Sadar.
The rest of the season will require Ancelotti to perfectly execute a difficult balancing act. Already eight points behind Barcelona, the Merengues cannot afford to drop any more points. With Toni Kroos and Benzema unavailable for the weekend, it will require a crunching effort from the team to win and keep their momentum going ahead of their return to the UCL.
Goals, energy, leadership: Three things Bellingham can offer to Real Madrid
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.
Goal – JUDE BELLINGHAM— masih miness (@WorldCup__id) November 21, 2022
England 1-0 Iran (34 mins) pic.twitter.com/CkCxl45mU1
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.
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.
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.
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.