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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid | Copa del Rey



Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Real Madrid finally seem to be back in business. Two important wins in less than a week at La Ceramica and San Mames against Villarreal and Athletic Club, respectively, is a frightening roar from the European Champions that announce their return to form in grandstand fashion.

Returning home after a long journey on the road, Los Blancos host Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid in their first game back at the Santiago Bernabeu in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey. The Madrid derby never has a favourites tag, but if recent history is anything to go by, the advantage is with Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

The Merengues have won four of their last six games against Simeone’s men. In their most recent meeting too, it was Real Madrid that came up trumps with goals from Rodrygo and Federico Valverde.

Having the home advantage for a game of such magnanimous proportions is an advantage that could prove decisive. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid.

1. A derby with consequences

The Madrid derby is one of the few games in football that never disappoints. The game emphasises the local rivalry that goes back decades, and in the process, presents enthralling action.

Ancelotti’s men were paired up with Villarreal for the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey. After arguably playing the most difficult opponent in the previous round, they now find themselves pitted against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.

While the Madrid derby is always action-packed and a game of narrow margins, there is something about tomorrow’s game that makes it ever-so-slightly more anticipated than others. After all, the direct knockout format is no small factor.

Real Madrid are currently two games into their Copa del Rey campaign, having entered the competition only in the Round of 32 stage. They first pushed aside Cacereno in a close 1-0 win before completing an unreal comeback from two goals down against Villarreal.

Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, have been a part of the cup from its very first round. They were made to work hard against Almazan and CD Arenteiro in their first two rounds and then took down Real Oviedo by two goals. In their last outing, they scored two goals past Levante to set up a date against Ancelotti’s side.

It is clear that both teams have a lot to play for on Thursday. Los Rojiblancos have battled for too long in the competition to go home empty-handed, while their neighbours are one of the favourites in the competition. Only one can progress to the semi-finals, and what better game to decide than a derby?

2. Camavinga’s golden chance

A big game beckons for Camavinga (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

The talent of Eduardo Camavinga was never a subject up for debate. The prodigy joined Real Madrid as one of France’s most promising talents, however, his adaptation at the club has not been as smooth as one would have anticipated.

Yet, several fans and pundits believe that Los Blancos’ clash against Athletic Club last week was the turning point Camavinga needed to kickstart his career in Madrid.

Ancelotti has always looked at the youngster as an option in the advanced midfield and thus placed him in direct competition with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. When faced with Aurelien Tchouameni’s absence from the game last week, the Italian tactician gambled Camavinga as the pivot and boy did it pay off.

The glaring reality over the Frenchman’s ability as a pivot did not take long to come out, and the manager quickly realised that he could work with Modric and Kroos, as opposed to competing with them.

Camavinga is expected to start as the holding midfielder once again against Atletico Madrid. Paired with two of the best midfielders of the generation in the Madrid derby, the youngster will have the biggest chance of his career so far to prove his worth to the manager and demand a regular starting spot.

3. Dani Carvajal’s continued unavailability

Dani Carvajal’s injury in training was a colossal blow to Carlo Ancelotti’s plans. Having already lost Lucas Vazquez, the manager suddenly had no right-back available.

The 31-year-old was expected to be out for two games, and the prognosis suggested that he would make it in time for the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey. But he is not ready in time for the clash against Atletico, once again forcing Ancelotti into deep thought.

The coach has decided to continue to place his faith in Nacho Fernandez, who has done a clean job at right-back recently.

Atletico Madrid boasts of a dangerous attack on their left wing, with Antoine Greizmann, Thomas Lemar and Reinildo combining well in the final third. Their new signing, Memphis Depay, adds a punch to the already quality-filled department. Needless to say, Real Madrid must be wary of their right flank to control the game tomorrow.

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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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