Three talking points ahead of Real Betis vs Real Madrid
When Real Madrid returned from Anfield, the streets of Madrid glowed with lights and fireworks to celebrate the special side Carlo Ancelotti had set up in his second stint at the club. As the team headed home for two games, the confidence was at an all-time high.
Two weeks later, the light no longer burns as brightly. The Merengues failed to win either of their two games at Santiago Bernabeu vs Atletico Madrid and Barcelona and now head to Benito Villamarin in Seville with no momentum on their side.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side sit just five points away from Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid and within four of the UCL spots and can move within nine points of Real Madrid with a win on Sunday.
The calendar has no respite for the Galacticos, for the clash against Los Verdiblancos will be no simple task.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Betis vs Real Madrid.
1. Poor results against rivals
Real Madrid’s incredible comeback win over Liverpool got the world talking about the class the men in white held in their ranks. On their day, the European Champions are capable of taking down even the best sides in Europe and the statement is not even up for debate.
The only downside, however, is that such days have come rare for Los Blancos.
Last season, it began to stand out conspicuously that Real Madrid often required individual brilliance to pull them out of difficult situations. Sometimes, it was Karim Benzema, and on other occasions, the likes of Luka Modric or Vinicius Jr who bailed the team out.
The difference this time around is that the men in white do not have the same level of individual contributions. The cracks in their armour have been exposed repeatedly in the season, and the last two results are a testament to this fact.
Playing against a ten-man Atletico Madrid at home for the better part of a half, Real Madrid conceded a goal and had to fight for a draw last week. Only a moment of brilliance from Alvaro Rodriguez saw the team salvage a point in the derby.
Days later, Ancelotti’s men faced off against a depleted Barcelona side, once again at home. Despite harbouring the advantage on their side, the Merengues slipped to a 1-0 defeat and generated no shot on target.
It would be foolish to deny that the Galacticos are not in their best moment right now. To not win two successive games and to go down in such tame fashion is unacceptable at Real Madrid, and Ancelotti must make amends on Sunday night.
2. Concerns around the captain
There were worrying reports that took over the headlines in Spain on Saturday. The media boasted of news of Karim Benzema’s lack of interest in training which directly translated into his poor performances on the field.
The situation was said to have baffled the club and Carlo Ancelotti alike and indeed comes as a worry given that Real Madrid have no backup for the striker. More importantly, the player in question happens to be the captain of the team.
Benzema was at the centre of almost every Real Madrid game and comeback last season. In his Ballon d’Or clinching campaign, the Frenchman clocked extraordinary numbers and single-handedly took his side to glory on multiple fronts.
However, the striker has just not looked the same this campaign. In recent weeks, the situation has gotten significantly worse.
The veteran was bafflingly poor against Atletico Madrid in the derby, missing two big chances and failing to complete a single dribble in 90 minutes. Yet, it did not come as a surprise given that Benzema has missed 15 big chances in La Liga this term.
In Thursday’s Clasico, the 35-year-old took yet another step back as he failed to take a single shot on the night. His xG against the Catalans was zero, as he posed no threat in front of the goal.
The alarm bells at Real Madrid should be ringing over Benzema’s situation, for the striker’s poor form does not bear well for the team.
3. Every game is a final
Only 15 games remain in this season’s La Liga. The title race is far from finished mathematically but will be a nut too tough to crack for Carlo Ancelotti’s men if they take it as casually as they are.
Seven points separate the Galacticos from Barcelona, and Matchday 24 clearly brings a tougher tie for the defending champions.
While Xavi’s men take on relegation-threatened Valencia, Real Madrid travel to Benito Villamarin to take on La Liga’s fifth-placed side.
All of the Merengues‘ last three wins at the stadium have been by a narrow one-goal margin. Further, the men in white have failed to beat Los Verdiblancos in four of their last seven meetings in La Liga.
A win on Sunday night is non-negotiable at this point in the season for Real Madrid. Every La Liga game from here on is a final, and it is high time the players realise the same.
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.