Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid
Fresh off their victory over Liverpool, Real Madrid return home to host a familiar opposition in Atletico Madrid in on Saturday in La Liga.
The two Madrid sides have already met twice this season, with the men in white coming out on top on both occasions. Real Madrid managed a 2-1 win over their rivals at the Civitas Metropolitano in September, and more recently, a 3-1 victory over them last month in the Cup.
Los Blancos‘ fixture on Saturday is vital from multiple point of views, and could have implications on the title race. Carlo Ancelotti is expected to make changes from the lineup he last deployed in La Liga and will hope that his full-strength Real Madrid can make easy work of Diego Simeone’s side.
Madrid universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid.
1. Riding the Anfield high
Real Madrid churned out the best display of all teams competing in Europe earlier this week when they took down Liverpool in their own backyard.
Coming back from two goals down to win by three, the men in white were in dangerous form in the second half and played perhaps their best 45 minutes of football this season. Their exploits in England come as the right boost ahead of a difficult few weeks.
In less than seven days, the Merengues take on both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Two La Liga games later, they host Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool before facing Xavi Hernandez’s men twice again, once each in the cup and La Liga.
A perfect month from here on in would go a long way in ensuring Real Madrid’s success on all fronts and would keep them well placed to secure a special treble. Needless to say, they must thus start off their difficult period with a strong display against Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, riding on the wave of momentum they secured at Anfield.
2. Tchouameni and Benzema return
After spending close to a month on the sidelines, Aurelien Tchouameni made it back just in time for Real Madrid’s Club World Cup campaign. However, the Frenchman was once again forced to sit out the team’s last two games through unfortunate flu.
He is back in the squad to take on Los Rojiblancos at Santiago Bernabeu and is expected to start on the night.
Tchouameni was the undisputed owner of the starting spot in defensive midfield until the end of last year. However, he now faces stiff competition from his compatriot Eduardo Camavinga and will thus be motivated to prove to the manager that he is still the better choice for the big games.
The midfielder is not the only French boost Ancelotti enjoys before the derby. Karim Benzema sat out the Merengues’ clash against Osasuna last weekend in anticipation of the game at Anfield but will return to the lineup in La Liga tomorrow.
Benzema’s form will be crucial for Real Madrid’s chances in the coming weeks. After scoring a special brace at Anfield, the veteran striker will look to leave his mark on the Madrid derby tomorrow and prepare for the upcoming Clasico.
3. A vital three points
Of all of Real Madrid’s remaining fixtures in La Liga, the Madrid derby and next month’s El Clasico are perhaps the most difficult points to win. To get six points against Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the games to come would thus be a big step towards catching the Catalans on the leaderboard.
On Saturday, the Merengues will have their first chance to secure three points in one of the aforementioned fixtures. Yet, the task is far from easy.
Simeone’s side currently sit fourth on the league standings with 41 points from 22 games. The Rojiblancos are unbeaten in their last four matches, and their last defeat, interestingly, came against Real Madrid in the quarter-final of the Copa del Rey.
A win over the Colchoneros would be massive in the grand scheme of things on the league standings. However, a defeat on Saturday could help Barcelona increase their lead to 11 points, a figure that looks nearly impossible to conquer.
Ancelotti’s side could only manage a goalless draw against third-placed Real Sociedad last month. They cannot afford to drop any points facing the fourth-placed team tomorrow. As the Madrid derby looms and tensions rise, one knows that the result could be telling on the final title race.
Goals, energy, leadership: Three things Bellingham can offer to Real Madrid
Real Madrid have been notoriously heavy spenders in the summer transfer market in the past but have not spent an awful lot over the last few seasons due to financial restrictions and their team finding its peak at the right time.
Real Madrid did shell out close to €100 million for Aurelien Tchouameni last year, and got Eduardo Camavinga in the summer of 2021 for around €400 million, too.
It does seem like they have a huge summer planned ahead of them, though. The club plans to splash some cash on multiple positions, including centre-forward, right-wing, central midfield, and across the defence.
Some targets are laid out for these positions, with Kylian Mbappe naturally being on the list.
However, one definite target for Madrid that’s been well-established already is Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham. His price tag is set at around €100-140 million, and Los Blancos are among the teams leading the race for his signature, alongside Manchester City and Liverpool.
The Englishman has an obviously high ceiling and is already among the best players in his position in Europe. Moreover, he adds depth across various skillsets and attributes that Real Madrid currently lack or will lack as the clock marches on.
Madrid Universal explores three different things Bellingham can bring to the table for an already talented Galacticos side.
Goals from midfield
Despite not playing an advanced role, Bellingham is a rather experienced poacher in the box. This comes with his thorough understanding of offensive routines, and timing his runs to perfection in the box.
Being 6’1″ and physically gifted, the teenager can attack crosses and passes into the box with ease. He boasts of a rather impressive leap as well, which was more than visible during the World Cup, when he opened the scoring against Iran.
Goal – JUDE BELLINGHAM— masih miness (@WorldCup__id) November 21, 2022
England 1-0 Iran (34 mins) pic.twitter.com/CkCxl45mU1
The English midfielder has scored four goals in the league for Dortmund, and has accumulated an xG of 5.25 across the season. That is nearly two more than Madrid’s highest scoring midfielder – Luka Modric.
Currently, Madrid’s goals are rather lopsidedly dependent on the forward line, with Toni Kroos and Modric just chipping in with a combined six goals in the league out of a possible 51.
While both players, and Camavinga, are adept at shooting from range, neither quite provide the box threat or the third-man runs Madrid are currently craving for.
Once Karim Benzema or Vinicius Jr are boxed out of the game, Carlo Ancelotti’s side struggle with ideas, and are often stuck in a pattern of crossing and hoping for the best.
And even with that, Bellingham could prove to be an excellent solution to their problems, coming up with late runs into the box and attacking crosses and loose balls.
Far too many times this season, Ancelotti has been criticised for using Modric and Kroos in the same midfield. Especially when their bench holds the likes of Camavinga, Dani Ceballos, and sometimes even Federico Valverde.
However, it is clear that these players have been delegated to certain roles in midfield. Camavinga and Tchouameni shuffle as pivot options, while Ceballos is called upon add more creativity in the centre of the park.
Bellingham, while far from the best ball retainer, certainly has energy and lungs for days. He can run from box to box, receive and turn in a crowded midfield, and chase the ball till the 90.
While they have Valverde in a similar mould, the Uruguayan has been tasked with running the right-wing more often than not, at least under Ancelotti. It will be interesting to see how another coach would utilise both players to their respective strengths should the transfer go through.
Long-term captaincy candidate
At 19, Bellingham has already shown signs of becoming a captain for any side he plays for, for years to come. He has donned the armband for Dortmund several times this season already, and was first awarded with it in October, becoming the youngest captain in Bundesliga history.
Currently, he holds the position of third captain for Dortmund, behind Marco Reus and Mats Hummels, but has already held the armband multiple times, including twice in the UEFA Champions League.
While Madrid have a fair few leaders in their ranks, including and not limited to the likes of Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and David Alaba, Bellingham has clearly proved that he is not only capable of taking on a leadership role, but also spearheading any side for years to come.
If all works out, the price tag of €120+ million will soon start to pale in comparison to the attributes he brings to the table alongside his unbelievably high ceiling and longevity.