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Three talking points ahead of Rayo Vallecano vs Real Madrid



Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Real Madrid travel downtown to Estadio de Vallecas late on Monday night to take on Rayo Vallecano in their penultimate clash before the World Cup. After securing just one point in their last league outing, the men in white will be desperate to get back to winning ways.

Their opponents on the night are placed ninth on the league standings with five wins in twelve games. They are just one win away from contesting directly for a spot in European football and pose a real threat to Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

The manager welcomes back some key players from injury but will also be without some of his veteran stars on the night. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid’s clash gainst Rayo Vallecano.

1. It’s Tchouameni time again

Aurelien Tchoumeni has been a standout performer for Real Madrid since his arrival in the summer, quickly adapting to life in Madrid and Carlo Ancelotti’s ideologies.

The French midfielder did not take long to hit the ground running at his new club as he cemented his place as a starter in the team within a month of his arrival. He not only nullified the after-effects of Casemiro’s departure but went one step ahead by providing a more complete profile to his predecessor.

However, Tchouameni was not available for selection in both of Real Madrid’s last two games through injury. After spending over a week on the sidelines, he will be available to the manager when the men in white take on Rayo Vallecano and is expected to start on the night.

Toni Kroos will miss the trip to Vallecas through suspension, meaning that Tchouameni’s role will be more pronounced on the night. He is expected to start alongside Luka Modric and Federico Valverde, though the latter could be pushed to the final third with Eduardo Camavinga taking his place.

The youngster has a massive two months ahead of him as he is the chosen one to replace N’Golo Kante in the starting lineup of the French National team at the FIFA World Cup. With the biggest tournament of his professional career less than two weeks away, he will look to utilise the next two games to get back into his zone and a good match rhythm.

2. Another game without a centre-forward

2022 is a year Karim Benzema can never forget, for it represents the year in which he was officially crowned the best football player on the planet. Yet, his start to the 22-23 season will not be something he looks upon half as proudly at.

The veteran striker last started Los Blancos‘ clash against Elche and even scored on the night. However, he played less than half an hour against Celtic and missed the team’s training sessions subsequently to muscular fatigue.

And, his recovery is once again taking longer than expected. Ancelotti has confirmed that Benzema would be unavailable for the team’s game at the Vallecas which will be the seventh match he misses through injury this season.

The Merengues have the resources to cope with his absence, but the 34-year-old’s injury record is a concerning statistic. Nevertheless, Monday’s game could now be another chance for Marco Asensio to prove his worth alongside Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo who have both taken the new season by storm.

3. Hanging on by a thread

When Real Madrid won El Clasico at Santiago Bernabeu, they took a solid three-point lead over arch-rivals Barcelona. However, the last matchday ruined Los Blancos’ party.

On Matchday 12, Barcelona pulled off a last-minute win over Valencia to secure three points at Mestalla. However, Real Madrid dished out a sore display against Girona and fell to a tame 1-1 draw courtesy of a controversial 80th-minute penalty for the visitors.

The defending champions’ lead thus fell to just two points ahead of this week’s round of football in Spain. Following Barcelona’s win over Almeria on Saturday, they currently sit on the top of the table, two points clear of Real Madrid, albeit having played one extra game.

When Ancelotti’s men take on Rayo Vallecano on Monday, the objective will thus be to register a win and regain the top spot. Any other result against Andoni Iraola’s side would indirectly render Los Blancos‘ hard-worked win over Barcelona worthless. A draw will see them on par with their arch rivals while a loss will see them sit in second place.

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Benzema, Camavinga start in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could line up against Liverpool



Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid will look to secure their place in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League when they take on Premier League bigwigs Liverpool in the second leg of their Round of 16 encounter tonight.

The Merengues are already in a solid position thanks to their 5-2 comeback victory in the first leg at Anfield, led by brilliant performances from Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema.

But the job is far from done as the Reds are perfectly capable of mounting a strong comeback, having done so in the past against Barcelona only a few years ago. The recent 7-0 thrashing of Manchester United also showed the capabilities of Jurgen Klopp’s men.

So, Carlo Ancelotti & co. will need to be professional and get the job done while guarding against any sort of complacency. The manager has a near-full squad at his disposal, with David Alaba the only player missing with an injury.

With the game set to kick off at the Santiago Bernabeu later tonight, Madrid Universal takes a look at how Los Blancos could line up against Liverpool.


Thibaut Courtois is a certain starter in goal for Real Madrid and will look to keep a clean sheet this time out after letting in two goals at Anfield in the reverse fixture.

The Belgian international will likely be shielded by the centre-back pairing of Eder Militao, who was in fine nick against Espanyol over the weekend, and Antonio Rudiger.

Dani Carvajal is a guaranteed starter at right-back, while Nacho Fernandez is set to get the nod on the left side after his solid performance after coming on as a substitute at Anfield. Ferland Mendy is back in the squad, but is unlikely to be thrust into the spotlight right away.

Moving into the middle of the park, Carlo Ancelotti has always banked on the experience of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos for the big games, and that will not change tonight against Liverpool at the Bernabeu.

Ancelotti’s trusted lieutenants. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The defensive midfield slot is up for grabs with neither Aurelien Tchouameni nor Eduardo Camavinga impressing against Espanyol. But, Camavinga has been in a much better nick in recent times than his compatriot and should get the nod.

As for the attacking trident, captain Karim Benzema is back in the squad after sitting out against Espanyol with an ankle issue. He is certain to start as the centre-forward while Vinicius Jr is a certainty on the left flank.

On the right, the likes of Rodrygo Goes, Marco Asensio and Federico Valverde are all options for Ancelotti, but it is the latter who is likely to get the nod tonight.

Real Madrid Predicted XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Nacho; Modric, Camavinga, Kroos; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius.


Rodrygo Goes has often made a big impact coming off the bench, especially in the big games and is certain to get minutes at some stage against Liverpool. Marco Asensio is another player who can provide goals from the bench and can be an asset.

Alternatively, if Carlo Ancelotti is looking to shore things up in midfield, the energy of Dani Ceballos might come in handy while Aurelien Tchouameni would also be in contention.

Youngster Alvaro Rodriguez has been making quite an impression of late and could get some minutes under his belt as well.

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