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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Cadiz



Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

Two weeks ago, Real Madrid would not have expected to be chasing their rivals in the league standings. The men in white were placed comfortably above Barcelona and seemed set to head into the World Cup hiatus with a solid lead. However, the tables have turned in a matter of days.

A defeat and a loss in their last two league fixtures leave them hanging in second place with a five-point deficit to first-placed Barcelona. And they must tighten the noose against Cadiz tonight in order cut down that gap.

Sergio’s men are struggling in the first division this term and have just two wins in their 13 games. With eleven points, they sit in the relegation zone just over Elche.

One would expect Carlo Ancelotti’s men to obliterate their opponents on Thursday, but nothing can be said about a team that does not have momentum on its side.

The manager will be without Karim Benzema and Antonio Rudiger on the night, both of whom miss the clash through injury. Nevertheless, he will have Toni Kroos back after the German served his one-match ban.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Thursday’s clash at the Bernabeu.

1. Time to strike back

Carlo Ancelotti’s press conference statement aptly summarises Real Madrid’s situation and mentality heading into Thursday’s clash. When asked about his team’s recent defeats, the manager sternly stated that his men were angry at their situation and want to turn things around.

The players’ and the manager’s anger is justified, given the poor run of form Real Madrid have shown. It all began with a 3-2 defeat to RB Leipzig in Germany before they dropped points to Girona at the end of last month.

The final nail in the coffin came in the form of a painful defeat at Estadio de Vallecas when Los Blancos were completely outplayed in the ninety minutes. Their forward line looked blunt on the night and Rayo Vallecano clearly looked like the team that wanted the win more.

The loss in Madrid brought with it serious implications. Real Madrid conceded their table-top spot and gifted it to arch-rivals Barcelona with one game to spare before the World Cup. Moreover, the Blaugrana’s win over Osasuna at El Sadar means that even a win against Cadiz for Ancelotti’s men would not suffice to win back the pole position.

Nevertheless, the team must maintain a close gap with Barcelona and come up with a strong display at Bernabeu to sign off on high spirits.

2. Toni Kroos – a decisive difference

Toni Kroos has been and continues to be an extremely underrated component of Real Madrid’s midfield. The German international may not be the flashiest player on the field, but his influence on the team’s performance is massive.

When one looks back to the defeat to Rayo Vallecano earlier this week, it becomes increasingly clear that Los Blancos missed the midfield maestro dearly. In the end, his reckless red card against Girona proved extremely costly.

Kroos will be back in action for the team’s final game before the World Cup and is expected to start alongside Aurelien Tchouameni and Luka Modric. Given that the Frenchman was also injured for a while, Ancelotti will have his strongest midfield available again.

3. Who will step up in attack?

Real Madrid’s last game was very uncharacteristic in that the team seemed to struggle in the final third. Despite not having Karim Benzema for most of the season, the men in white have not struggled to find important goals across competitions. Yet, the front three looked overwhelmed at Vallecas.

Vinicius Jr made just 33 touches in 90 minutes and did not even complete a single dribble in the game, clearly showing that he was outside his comfort zone. His compatriot Rodrygo looked equally clueless, registering zero shots on target and missing one big chance.

Marco Asensio was the only Real Madrid forward who showed promise against Andoni Iraola’s men and is in line to get another start tonight. Yet, the big question will be whether Rodrygo and Vinicius can show their class without Benzema on the field, or whether the Ballon d’Or winner’s absence costs the team again.

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Three talking points from Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | La Liga



Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid fell to a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona on their first trip to Spotify Camp Nou after more than a year.

The Catalans had not won against the Merengues at home since 2018 ahead of the game but a clutch goal from Franck Kessie helped them turn around the record.

Vinicius Jr opened the scoring early in the game by forcing an error and own goal from Ronald Araujo. The hosts levelled the score in the 45th minute through Sergi Roberto, before the winner arrived in stoppage time.

The game was not without its share of controversy as Real Madrid had a goal disallowed for offside that Ancelotti felt was unfair. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from the fourth Clasico of the season.

1. Quality of full-backs

Real Madrid have etched their names into history as one of the most deadly counter-attacking teams in world football. Their pacey transitions and shifts of play have traditionally progressed through the wing with unreal speed to catch the opponent off-guard even in a momentary lapse in concentration.

Needless to say, the full-backs have always worked in tandem with the team’s wingers to make such speedy counters possible. The glaring problem at Real Madrid currently is that their full-backs do not provide half as much as they need to.

Los Blancos’ counterattack now seemingly consists of only Vinicius Jr on the left wing making a quick transition to find Karim Benzema. With just one outlet, it is difficult for the men in white to be effective.

The story at Spotify Camp Nou was very similar. Dani Carvajal started as the right-back and had a good showing defensively. Yet, he was virtually absent in the final third and left Real Madrid’s right-wing lifeless. In ninety minutes, he managed no crosses or long balls and had just one key pass.

The story at left-back was equally, if not more abysmal. Nacho Fernandez was the candidate deployed in the position and could also not manage a single cross, long ball or key pass on the night. He was eventually substituted for Ferland Mendy but the Frenchman could not do much either.

The difference in the quality of full-backs between Barcelona and Ancelotti’s side is gaping. The Catalans blazed through the wings on the night with Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde who constantly got forward in attack to stretch the men in white. In response, Real Madrid had nothing.

2. A dead right-wing and lack of intensity

Carvajal had a forgettable game (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

It is imperative for any top football team to have the resources to attack both wings, for it is the constant switching of play that triggers errors from the opposition. For a club like Real Madrid to not have such resources is criminal.

The game against Barcelona was completely predictable given that the Merengues’ right wing was nonexistent. Any attack, almost surely, had to come down Vinicius’ wing and this made Barcelona’s defensive work easier.

Dani Carvajal was barely involved in the final third against the Catalans. That, coupled with Federico Valverde’s atrocious showing as the right-winger removed one side of the field from Real Madrid’s game.

Valverde made just 27 passes in 76 minutes and failed to make a single cross on the night. Further, he recorded just one key pass and one accurate long ball in El Clasico.

When Marco Asensio came on for Los Blancos, the equation completely turned around. The winger came on as a direct replacement for Valverde and happened to score the disallowed goal that was millimetres from giving Real Madrid three points.

More importantly, the move for the aforementioned goal was completely down the right flank, a testament to the alarming situation.

3. Goodbye La Liga?

When the clock at Spotify Camp Nou struck 81 minutes, the race for La Liga seemed to be on. Real Madrid had just scored a possible winner and had cut short their deficit with Barcelona to just six points.

Ten minutes later, the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of the hosts. Their lead atop the league standings was suddenly twelve points with just 12 games to go.

History is witness that counting out Real Madrid does not fare well. However, it is difficult to surpass the supposition that the 12-point gap is too wide to bridge.

Los Blancos will continue to fight in the league, but Ancelotti will likely preserve his weapons for the UEFA Champions League where they face a bigger chance at glory.

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