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Three talking points ahead of Real Betis vs Real Madrid



Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

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.

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Three talking points ahead of Manchester City vs Real Madrid



Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The big Champions League nights seldom disappoint, and the first-leg quarterfinal results last week in this year’s edition were no different.

The four games cumulatively saw 18 goals scored, none of which were overwhelmingly convincing, thus leaving the ground level ahead of the decisive second legs.

Of the four fixtures that unfolded last week, the clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City was the most entertaining, by far.

An enthralling 3-3 draw saw both Los Blancos and Pep Guardiola’s men pull off mini-comebacks on the night before they eventually split the spoils and left everything to be decided at the Etihad Stadium.

Tomorrow, the two European giants face off again in Manchester in a game that will grant the victor a spot in the semifinal of this season’s Champions League.

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

New year, new team

As Real Madrid head to the Etihad to take part in the decisive second leg, they invariably confront some horrific memories at the arena.

For starters, the men in white have never beaten Manchester City at the Etihad in an official game. Of the teams’ last three meetings at the venue over the past four years, City have always come out on top at home.

Los Blancos’ most recent recollection of the venue does not help in any way either. After all, they headed to England last season after a draw in the first leg at home, only to be destroyed by a 4-0 margin by Pep Guardiola’s men.

Fast forward one year, the Spanish giants once again failed to secure an advantage in the home fixture. To qualify for the semifinal, they must not only conquer the Etihad’s curse but also get past the ghosts of last year.

A lot has changed in Carlo Ancelotti’s setup since the two sides last met. Karim Benema’s departure, Jude Bellingham’s arrival, and the rise of new stars in goal and defence are just some of the innumerable variations that have grown into the Madrid-based entity.

Ancelotti’s primary goal tomorrow, thus, should be to keep the morale and belief of his men high. It is a new year, a new team, and history plays no part in how the game plays out.

The defensive situation

Rudiger and Nacho likely to start in defence. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)

Ancelotti was faced with a defensive dilemma ahead of Real Madrid’s first leg last week. Of the available options, he opted to go with Aurelien Tchouameni to partner Antonio Rudiger, purely because of the Frenchman’s prowess in aerial duels.

While Tchouameni did do a good job, he is suspended for tomorrow’s clash leaving the Italian coach in a tricky situation in defence.

His Plan B, Eder Militao, is not fit enough to start, and everything indicates that Nacho will be the player to start alongside the German.

Tomorrow’s game at Etihad will be a personal battle for Rudiger, for he was dropped the last time Real Madrid played at the venue and watched his team’s destruction from the sidelines.

Now arriving as the leader of defence, he will make it his objective to prove that Ancelotti’s decision to drop him a year ago was costly. After all, he has efficiently defended against Erling Haaland in all his meetings with the Norwegian.

An equal share of the spotlight will shine on Nacho, whose aerial ability will be tested, and Ferland Mendy, who suffered against Bernardo Silva a week ago.

Clarity in approach

Real Madrid differ from other top European clubs in one primary respect. Unlike the goal of competitors to play a beautiful game, dominate the proceedings and assert authority, Los Blancos purely concern themselves with the result.

Be it ugly or an exquisitely crafted display, the win and qualification are all that Ancelotti aims for. The aforementioned approach has largely pioneered the team’s success over the years.

Heading into tomorrow’s clash, it is thus imperative that Real Madrid have the right idea of what to expect.

It will be close to impossible to dominate proceedings against a well-oiled Pep Guardiola team, nor will it be simple to boast of possession. As such, the Merengues will likely be forced to defend deep for large parts of the game.

What will be critical, however, are the few chances they get on the counter-attack. The likes of Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo Goes, Jude Bellingham and Federico Valverde will be crucial if the team is to hit on the break with efficiency, and their form will account for a large part of the result.

The goal tomorrow, thus, must not be to dominate the game but purely to walk out victors. It might not turn out to be beautiful, but will surely be memorable should it work out.

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