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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Almeria



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Fresh from the disappointment at Estadi Montilivi, a physically and mentally exhausted Real Madrid are set to host Almeria in La Liga this Saturday. Rest is not a word that has featured on their calendar this term and the schedule, at this point, is beginning to get ridiculous.

Their opponents on the evening, Almeria, sit 16th on the league table with nine wins from 31 games so far. They are two points above the relegation zone but have lost 16 times this season.

Incidentally, Almeria are one of only two teams in La Liga to have defeated Barcelona other than Real Madrid this season. Their position on the standings is misleading and the men in white will have to be wary tomorrow.

Only a David Alaba free-kick seconds after coming off the bench saved Real Madrid in the reverse fixture against Almeria. Who will be the hero this time around?

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

1. Croatian crisis

Devastating news took over the streets of Madrid earlier today when it came to light that Luka Modric was injured. The Croatian international was substituted off against Girona after experiencing mild pain, but tests reveal a much worse picture.

Having suffered a tear on his hamstring muscle, Modric is expected to miss the next two weeks of action. Not only is he completely ruled out for the Copa del Rey final but is also a doubt for the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal against Manchester City.

Speaking in his press conference, Carlo Ancelotti admitted that the sudden development was a big blow to his plans and termed Modric irreplaceable.

As suggested in his presser, the manager could likely opt to deploy Dani Ceballos as a direct replacement for Modric. The Spaniard could accompany Toni Kroos and Aurelien Tchouameni in midfield, especially considering Eduardo Camavinga’s pre-occupation at left-back.

Modric’s absence for the next two weeks does not bode well for the defending European Champions. Yet, the true mark of a great side is its ability to tread through the deepest of troughs and it is time for Ancelotti’s men to show they depend on no one.

2. Key duo return

Back. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

There is no reason that justifies Real Madrid’s embarrassment against Girona. However, one must remember that some of the team’s most important players were missing on the night.

Karim Benzema, Thibaut Courtois, David Alaba, Ferland Mendy, Dani Ceballos, and Eden Hazard all missed the last game and a major chunk of them will be back tomorrow.

Ceballos’ return is attributed to his completion of the one-game suspension. However, two stars who were dealing with minor issues last time out but will return tomorrow are Benzema and Courtois.

The former was sorely missed against the Catalan club as the men in white struggled to capitalise on their chances. More importantly, his missing off-the-ball movements and link-up play made the team’s performance in the final third appear stale.

Courtois’ return is another blessing for Ancelotti. While Andriy Lunin cannot be faulted for all the goals conceded midweek, one just knows that Courtois’ ability to come up clutch would not have allowed the embarrassing scoreline. With him back in between the sticks, nothing less than three points will be the target.

3. Two games to get on track

A 4-2 loss is the last result Carlo Ancelotti would have wanted from his men midweek. It is true that La Liga no longer matters for the men in white. Yet, a humiliating defeat is far from acceptable.

Just over a week remains before Los Blancos take to the field against Osasuna in the Copa del Rey final. As much as the Merengues appear favourites, Jagoba Arrasate’s side is the last team one should attempt to belittle.

Over the next seven days, Real Madrid play two matches – Almeria at the Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow and Real Sociedad at Reale Arena next midweek. The two games may not count for much directly but play a far bigger role in the bigger picture.

Los Blancos’ two immediate fixtures after facing Real Sociedad are must-win games. The Copa del Rey final is one the Merengues cannot afford to let slip while the first leg against Manchester City requires no introduction.

It will thus be key for Ancelotti’s side to use their next 180 minutes on the field to bounce back from the defeat to Girona and recover their imperial best. After all, form could never be more valuable.

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Real Madrid vs Athletic Club: End of an era, farewells, tight race for second place



Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Real Madrid will walk down the tunnel of Santiago Bernabeu one last time this season on Sunday night. The men in white are pitted against Athletic Club on their final match-day, and the game will not be an easy affair by any means.

The Basque side sit in seventh place on the league standings with 50 points in 37 appearances. However, their qualification for the UEFA Conference League is in danger with Osasuna lurking close behind with an equal number of points.

Anything less than a win could prove insufficient for the visitors and it is clear that they arrive at Santiago Bernabeu with nothing less than a win on their agenda. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao.

1. The end of an era for the number 9 shirt?

Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

The grey area around Karim Benzema’s future has only widened in recent days. From a situation where his continuity at Real Madrid was taken for granted, it did not take long for the Frenchman’s story to enter a steep deviation.

An economically tempting proposal from Saudi Arabia had Benzema seriously contemplating a move away from Santiago Bernabeu, and reports stated that his departure from the Spanish club was close to complete.

The world, thus, looked in anticipation of his next official interaction with the media. The Ballon d’Or winner publicly addressed the topic for the first time earlier this week, and it is safe to say that his words gave nothing away.

Benzema neither confirmed nor completely refuted the rumours of his exit to the media. His situation is balanced on the blade of a knife and could tip in either direction.

In that sense, there is a good chance that tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu is Karim Benzema’s final game for Real Madrid. If the striker does choose to change loyalties, it would mark the end of an era for the team’s number nine position.

It has been over a decade since the Frenchman took over the prestigious kit. He has played 647 games for the club so far in his career, scoring a stunning 353 goals in the process. Of them, 98 have been match-winning contributions.

2. A day of farewells

Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Earlier today, Real Madrid announced the departure of Marco Asensio from the club. The Spanish winger appears set to sign for PSG for the 2023-24 season and will bid adieu on Sunday. However, he will not be the only player playing his final game for the club tomorrow.

Nacho Fernandez has been a critical part of Real Madrid’s success in recent years but is another name close to sealing an exit. The defender is not satisfied with the playing time under his belt at the club and has not yet responded to the renewal offer on his table.

With his contract running out in less than 30 days, he appears closer to leaving than staying. One can expect an announcement from Nacho on Sunday night after the game at the Bernabeu, which could be his final game in white.

The situation with Dani Ceballos is quite similar. The Spanish midfielder is still undecided on his future, although there is still a slight chance he could continue at the club. Staying on the subject of players making their final appearance, however, he could be one on the list.

Away from the stories of incomplete renewal negotiations, Mariano Diaz is one player whose departure from the club is confirmed. Ferland Mendy, Jesus Vallejo, Alvaro Odriozola and Eden Hazard are some of the other candidates well-placed to make departures, although nothing can be said for sure.

3. A tight race for second place

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

There is not much to play for on Sunday night except for the emotional tag of it being the season’s final game. Yet, the men in white will not be without an objective against Athletic Club.

Los Blancos sit on 77 points in 37 league appearances this season and just have a one-point lead over third-placed Atletico Madrid. Needless to say, they must be vary of their position on the standings for any complacency could see them drop down the ladder.

Diego Simeone’s men take on fifth-placed Villarreal at the same time as Real Madrid’s game against Athletic Club. Even if Carlo Ancelotti’s men settle for a draw against the Basque side, the second place would be Atletico Madrid’s to lose.

With both games kicking off simultaneously, there will be nerves throughout the ninety minutes in Madrid. One can only hope for action-filled games to keep the anxiety and adrenaline high.

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