Three talking points ahead of RB Leipzig vs Real Madrid
The top two teams of Group F take on each other on Tuesday in the penultimate game of the group stage. Both teams have something to play for on the night but is the Germans who would hold a win closer to their heart.
Leipzig sit just one point clear of Shakhtar Donestk with two games to go. It is safe to say that a loss against Real Madrid could well end their UCL hopes if Shakhtar win over Celtic tomorrow. That said, Marco Rose’s men will go all out and look to convert their home advantage into three points.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of the UCL night.
1. Three musketeers missing
Three key players are expected to miss Real Madrid’s clash in Germany owing to different reasons. While Los Blancos have proved time and time again that they can manage even without their best players, the list of absentees forces one to raise an eyebrow.
The first player who will not board the flight to Germany is Karim Benzema. The French International picked up an injury ahead of his team’s clash against Sevilla and missed the game with Los Nervionenses due to it.
Ancelotti has confirmed that he will not play midweek and is expected to return for the clash against Girona.
The manager will also be without the services of Federico Valverde, who fell victim to a nasty challenge in the final minute of the weekend’s clash.
After a man-of-the-match display, the Uruguayan suffered a blow to his ankle and hopped off the field. While tests reveal no major injury, the manager will not risk the midfielder until he is 100% fit.
The third big absentee against the German side is Luka Modric. The midfielder did not travel with the team due to some minor discomfort in his adductor muscles, and the club do not want to risk him with the FIFA World Cup around the corner.
The three players missing from the game are arguably cornerstones of the team’s success in recent years. Needless to say, the onus will be on Ancelotti to chart a plan and minimise the damage.
2. Objective: Top of the table
Heading into Matchday 5 of the group stages of the UCL, Real Madrid dit pretty on top of Group F with ten points. The Spanish side won their opening three games with a dominant margin but dropped their only points of the campaign on the last matchday.
Going up against Shakhtar Donetsk, Ancelotti’s men trailed until the final minute of the game. Just when it seemed that Real Madrid had suffered their first loss of the season, Antonio Rudiger put everything on the line and scored an equaliser.
With ten out of a possible twelve points so far, the defending champions are four points clear of second-placed RB Leipzig. Their place in the next round is already assured, but what remains to be decided is whether they finish first or second.
All Real Madrid need against Leipzig to guarantee themselves a table-top finish is one point. Needless to say, that will be the mission on Tuesday night.
3. A team with fewer teeth but more hunger
The men in white may miss out on some of their key players at Red Bull Arena, but that does not mean they will come out any less motivated.
The manager has confirmed that he will give a chance to the players who have seen fewer minutes in the league tomorrow. These players may not have match fitness, but they have a hunger that cannot be easily satiated.
The first such player expected to start is Marco Asensio. The Spaniard has been largely ostracized from the first-team dynamics this season but produced impactful performances whenever called upon.
As the club consider his renewal as a real option again, Asensio will look to use his start against Leipzig to the fullest and put on a show.
Eden Hazard has not played in the last six league games and could be an option on Tuesday. The Belgian could have an opportunity to start alongside Asensio and Vinicius on the night, with the Spaniard taking over as the centre-forward.
Changes are also expected in the midfield. Eduardo Camavinga will certainly start the game with Aurelien Tcouameni and Toni Kroos. However, Ancelotti will not have many options on the bench, given that Modric, Ceballos and Valverde are all unavailable.
Three talking points from Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | La Liga
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid fell to a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona on their first trip to Spotify Camp Nou after more than a year.
The Catalans had not won against the Merengues at home since 2018 ahead of the game but a clutch goal from Franck Kessie helped them turn around the record.
Vinicius Jr opened the scoring early in the game by forcing an error and own goal from Ronald Araujo. The hosts levelled the score in the 45th minute through Sergi Roberto, before the winner arrived in stoppage time.
The game was not without its share of controversy as Real Madrid had a goal disallowed for offside that Ancelotti felt was unfair. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from the fourth Clasico of the season.
1. Quality of full-backs
Real Madrid have etched their names into history as one of the most deadly counter-attacking teams in world football. Their pacey transitions and shifts of play have traditionally progressed through the wing with unreal speed to catch the opponent off-guard even in a momentary lapse in concentration.
Needless to say, the full-backs have always worked in tandem with the team’s wingers to make such speedy counters possible. The glaring problem at Real Madrid currently is that their full-backs do not provide half as much as they need to.
Los Blancos’ counterattack now seemingly consists of only Vinicius Jr on the left wing making a quick transition to find Karim Benzema. With just one outlet, it is difficult for the men in white to be effective.
The story at Spotify Camp Nou was very similar. Dani Carvajal started as the right-back and had a good showing defensively. Yet, he was virtually absent in the final third and left Real Madrid’s right-wing lifeless. In ninety minutes, he managed no crosses or long balls and had just one key pass.
The story at left-back was equally, if not more abysmal. Nacho Fernandez was the candidate deployed in the position and could also not manage a single cross, long ball or key pass on the night. He was eventually substituted for Ferland Mendy but the Frenchman could not do much either.
The difference in the quality of full-backs between Barcelona and Ancelotti’s side is gaping. The Catalans blazed through the wings on the night with Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde who constantly got forward in attack to stretch the men in white. In response, Real Madrid had nothing.
2. A dead right-wing and lack of intensity
It is imperative for any top football team to have the resources to attack both wings, for it is the constant switching of play that triggers errors from the opposition. For a club like Real Madrid to not have such resources is criminal.
The game against Barcelona was completely predictable given that the Merengues’ right wing was nonexistent. Any attack, almost surely, had to come down Vinicius’ wing and this made Barcelona’s defensive work easier.
Dani Carvajal was barely involved in the final third against the Catalans. That, coupled with Federico Valverde’s atrocious showing as the right-winger removed one side of the field from Real Madrid’s game.
Valverde made just 27 passes in 76 minutes and failed to make a single cross on the night. Further, he recorded just one key pass and one accurate long ball in El Clasico.
When Marco Asensio came on for Los Blancos, the equation completely turned around. The winger came on as a direct replacement for Valverde and happened to score the disallowed goal that was millimetres from giving Real Madrid three points.
More importantly, the move for the aforementioned goal was completely down the right flank, a testament to the alarming situation.
3. Goodbye La Liga?
When the clock at Spotify Camp Nou struck 81 minutes, the race for La Liga seemed to be on. Real Madrid had just scored a possible winner and had cut short their deficit with Barcelona to just six points.
Ten minutes later, the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of the hosts. Their lead atop the league standings was suddenly twelve points with just 12 games to go.
History is witness that counting out Real Madrid does not fare well. However, it is difficult to surpass the supposition that the 12-point gap is too wide to bridge.
Los Blancos will continue to fight in the league, but Ancelotti will likely preserve his weapons for the UEFA Champions League where they face a bigger chance at glory.