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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid | Spanish Super Cup

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Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

Away from the bustling streets of Spain and the happening world of football in Europe nestles Real Madrid’s next major tournament. Saudi Arabia is rapidly up and coming as the sport’s next big destination, and the Spanish Super Cup lighting up the Middle-Eastern nation’s stadiums will only further the craze.

The Super Cup has made it a tradition to take place outside of Spain so as to improve the brand value of Spanish football and La Liga. Taking some of the sport’s biggest names overseas also promises a healthy paycheck to the parties participating.

On offer is a glamorous trophy that is rightfully considered one of the most in-reach pieces of silverware. After all, four teams stand just two wins away from lifting in later this month – Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Osasuna.

The first game of the Spanish Super Cup kicks off tomorrow night at Al-Awwal Park in Riyadh and will see the two big Madrid-based sides lock horns. Interestingly, both teams have been drawn against each other in the Copa del Rey as well and will thus fight off twice this week in knockout formats.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of the Madrid Derby set to take place outside the Spanish capital.

Real Madrid’s forte

Real Madrid have got off to a sensational start to La Liga this season. Halfway through the campaign, Los Blancos sit on 48 points with 15 wins, three draws and just one loss. They sit at par with Girona and a whopping seven points ahead of third-placed Barcelona.

The team has been remarkably consistent in the league thus far despite battling a host of injuries, and that only goes to show how far the men in white have grown as a unit over the past year. After all, they were regularly inconsistent in last season’s La Liga, regularly dropping points.

Knockout competitions have always been Real Madrid’s forte. The Merengues often bring out their best football when the pressure is the highest and their backs are against the wall.

Their stunning record in the UEFA Champions League is a testament to the above statement. Carlo Ancelotti’s men, at this point, are perennial favourites in the competition owing to their ability to mount comebacks from impossible situations.

The Spanish Super Cup is thus their title to lose in many ways. Real Madrid fell short against Barcelona last season, but they are quite clearly the most in-form team heading into this edition and their title of comeback kings only furthers their cause.

Come a long way

In fine form. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Looking purely at the statistics, it is difficult to see Real Madrid’s season so far to be anything but a walk in the garden. They have been imperious in attack and impervious in defence, so much so that they have scored 40 goals and conceded just 11 so far in La Liga.

Their start to the season in reality, however, was not as convincing. Real Madrid conceded six goals in just their first six games of the season, with the biggest blow coming in the 3-1 hammering to Atletico Madrid. Notably, that was the team’s only defeat of the season.

Everything changed after that fateful night at Civitas Metropolitano. Ancelotti’s troops quickly recovered from the loss, regrouped and stepped up their game across the field.

Since then, the defence has only conceded five goals in 13 games and has been amongst the best in the business. The midfield has flourished with Jude Bellingham shining the brightest while the forward department has got the job done come what may.

Tomorrow’s game thus provides Los Blancos with a chance to avenge their only defeat of the season. With the Copa del Rey clash and the return fixture in La Liga against Atletico Madrid both coming in less than a month, the two teams will face off thrice in quick succession.

Rested and raring to go

Ancelotti rested some of his biggest stars for the Copa del Rey clash last weekend. With the gruelling schedule that lies ahead, it was only deserved that the players got the extra day off.

Toni Kroos, Vinicius Jr and Aurelien Tchouameni did not make the squad list on the night and had no involvement in the proceedings at all. With close to a week to recuperate after the team’s last game, the core trio will be ready to get back into action come Wednesday night.

Ancelotti also started the likes of Federico Valverde, Rodrygo Goes, Dani Carvajal, Antonio Rudiger, Jude Bellingham and Luka Modric on the bench against Arandina. While the former two did feature in the second half, the rest of the group did not step onto the field in the Cup fixture.

It is thus safe to say that a large part of Wednesday’s starting lineup are well rested at this point, and deservedly so. The gruelling derby tomorrow will only be the first step toward the Spanish Super Cup which the squad will be desperate to make theirs.

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Kroos, Courtois start in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could lineup against Real Betis

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Photo via Getty Images

Having won the league comfortably after accumulating 94 points in 37 games, Real Madrid’s main objective for the last game of the season, set to go ahead tomorrow, against Real Betis, would be to finish on 97 points.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side are coming off a 4-4 draw against Villarreal last weekend, Madrid will be looking to end the domestic season with a win, which would also serve as a huge confidence boost ahead of their Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund.

Reports have suggested that Ancelotti is alternating his lineup ahead of the UCL final to keep his troops fit and gunning. And after rotations last week against Villarreal, all signs point towards the best XI taking the field vs Betis.

Keeping that in mind, Madrid Universal takes a jab at the 14-time Champions League winners’ final starting lineup of the season for their game against Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis.

Defence: Militao or Nacho?

Andriy Lunin returned to guard the posts against Villarreal, which could be a sign that Ancelotti is preparing to use Thibaut Courtois as his goalkeeper against Dortmund. As such, we expect the Belgian to handle the gloves tomorrow.

Daniel Carvajal is expected to replace Lucas Vazquez as the right-back, while Ferland Mendy returns to take over his left-back role.

Antonio Rudiger’s spot does not seem to be in any threat at all, but there are question marks over who will start alongside him, especially on the back of Eder Militao’s disastrous performance vs Villarreal.

Consequently, Nacho might get the nod tomorrow, especially since it could be his last game for Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Midfield: Farewell Toni

While Nacho’s future is still up in the air, Toni Kroos announced his decision to leave Madrid at the end of the season on a free transfer. He will play his final game at home tomorrow, and is expected to get a huge farewell.

Kroos’ last game in Madrid colours. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Federico Valverde will aid him in midfield, playing on the right side of the trident, while Eduardo Camavinga starts as the defensive midfielder to cover for the injured Aurelien Tchouameni.

Attack: No doubts

The attack pretty much picks itself, especially if Ancelotti is truly planning on mirroring the lineup that will likely start the Champions League final as well.

Jude Bellingham will retain his spot as the false 9, playing slightly off left as he has done more so in recent weeks.

Brazilian powerhouse Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo will get the license to start as the two forwards up top, playing in front of Bellingham.

Off the bench

Joselu will almost definitely get some minutes tomorrow, and more than likely in the Champions League final as well, especially owing to his brilliance against Bayern Munich in the semi-finals.

Similarly, Ancelotti could opt to experiment with Luka Modric in midfield in the second half, especially if Tchouameni does not make it back in time to full fitness ahead of the final.

Eder Militao and Arda Guler are also in for some minutes tomorrow, with the latter on the scoresheet four time sin the last three games.

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