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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Almeria



Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

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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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona



Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

Real Madrid return to the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night for the first time since booking a place in the semifinal of the UEFA Champions League.

Having dethroned the reigning UCL champions midweek, they will look to do the same to the reigning Spanish champions at the weekend as they take on Barcelona in La Liga.

The Catalans have been on a mini resurgence in recent weeks, but their momentum and morale was crushed midweek with a defeat to PSG in the second leg of the UCL quarterfinal.

Real Madrid have got the better of the Blaugranas twice this season already, and appear to have the advantage over them for the third time ahead of Sunday’s clash. A win on the night would have massive implications.

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

Riding the high

Manchester City may have embarrassed Real Madrid by a 4-0 scoreline at the Etihad one year ago. Earlier this week, however, Los Blancos exacted their revenge at the same venue.

Pep Guardiola’s side may have been the more dominant team on the night with the better chances. On a scale of who deserved to go through for attacking football, the Premier League giants indeed would have made the cut.

Yet, Real Madrid held on through the storm and pulled through an extra 30 minutes to take the game to a penalty shootout. The masters of nerves kept their cool through the tense shootout and pulled through in clutch Real Madrid style.

Ancelotti must play his cards right (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

They now enter El Clasico riding on the wave of momentum that has been going their way all season, and they must look to capitalise on the psychological edge they boast on the psychological front.

After all, Barcelona are coming off a tough defeat which sealed their elimination from Europe and are far from their best state from a psychological standpoint. A mentally weakened opposition is, after all, half conquered.

The final rung

El Clasico has lost its charm in recent years and is overtaken by several other fascinating fixtures across the globe as football’s elite clash.

While a part of the decline is due to the departure of big names from both teams, Barcelona’s overall fall in quality has an equal role to play in the same.

While the game may not have the same global appeal it did a few years ago, however, El Clasico seldom arrives without any reward on the line. This time, it brings with it a real chance for Carlo Ancelotti’s side to celebrate a massive success.

With seven games to go in La Liga, Los Blancos sit comfortably on 78 points while second-placed Barcelona are on 70 points. A win tomorrow will widen the gap to 11 points, and virtually seal La Liga in Real Madrid’s name.

After all, it is almost unthinkable that the men in white will lose four of their next six games after the Clasico. Tomorrow’s game, thus, brings with it the ultimate prize.

Carlo Ancelotti’s focus against Barcelona, thus, will be to ensure that his side do not slacken out and that they bring home all three points the easy way. After all, a defeat at the Bernabeu will cut their lead to five points and set up for a nervy finish.

The right rotations

Having just played a tiring 120-minute shift against Manchester City on Wednesday night, it is but natural for Los Blancos to feel fatigued.

Checking on players’ fitness and opting for the right rotations, albeit without impacting the quality on the field, thus will be Ancelotti’s greatest challenge ahead of the showdown against Barcelona.

For starters, Toni Kroos is expected to be replaced by Luka Modric in midfield on the night after playing a long shift midweek. The Croatian showed against Manchester City that he still has magic in his boots, and a start against Barcelona would not be undeserved.

The second likely change in midfield will be the return of Aurelien Tchouameni, who was suspended midweek. The Frenchman is expected to take the place of his teammate Eduardo Camavinga at the base of midfield.

Moving to the final third, the player in question for the game is Vinicius Jr, especially considering that he was facing muscular discomfort after the game in England.

He has been included in the squad to face Barcelona, but it is critical that Ancelotti evaluates his fitness before handing him the start.

If indeed the Brazilian is not fit to play from the first minute, Rodrygo will take his place on the left wing with Joselu covering the second spot in attack.

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