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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Cadiz

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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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Features

Real Madrid World Cup Spotlight: Vinicius, Rodrygo, Militao advance to the Round of 16

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Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The second round of group-stage fixtures in Qatar came to a close on Monday in what was a day of very high-quality football. The first two games alone accounted for 11 goals in what was the highest tally in a day in this edition.

The first game saw Serbia and Cameroon face off in an epic clash that saw no end of twists and turns. The game ended 3-3 with the teams sharing the points.

The next game saw South Korea go 2-0 down quickly against Ghana before coming back in the second half. However, the African side scored once again on demand to steer themselves to a win.

Brazil needed a late winner from Casemiro to break the deadlock against Switzerland in the third game and secured their spot in the Round of 16.

The last game between Portugal and Uruguay was expected to be a match of equals. That perception quickly changed when the Europeans produced a dominant performance and killed off the game with two goals.

Madrid Universal brings you an overview of the performances of Real Madrid players on Monday.

Vinicius Jr (Brazil vs Switzerland)

Over the past few years, Vinicius Jr has carved out a reputation for being a thorn in defenders’ feet, be it with his world-class dribbling or his antics. As one of the best young wingers in business, he stands out in chance creation even when faced against the best in the business.

However, it appeared like Silvan Widmer had Vinicius in his pockets for large parts of the game. The two created a fabulous battle down Brazil’s left-wing but it was often the Real Madrid player who came second best.

The youngster scored a goal in the 66th minute with a perfectly placed shot after beating his man. However, it was ruled out for an offside intervention after the VAR review.

Apart from sporadic moments of magic, Vinicius did not offer much. He had just one shot on target, completed just one of his five attempted dribbles and missed one big chance. Moreover, he did not complete a single cross accurately and lost more than 50% of his duels. But he was involved in the buildup to the goal.

Eder Militao (Brazil vs Switzerland)

After spending 90 minutes on the bench against Serbia, Militao received his first World Cup start on Monday night. However, the manager deployed him as the right-back as opposed to his usual position in central defence.

Despite playing in a foreign position, the Brazilian was convincing in defence and stopped the likes of Ruben Vargas and Ricardo Rodriguez.

Understandably, Militao did not look to burst into the final third and create chances like a traditional full-back but was still heavily linked in the build-up play. He completed 87% of his attempted passes, five out of eight long balls and even provided a key pass.

Rodrygo Goes (Brazil vs Switzerland)

Rodrygo impressed after coming on from the bench (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images)

After Brazil’s underwhelming first half, the manager turned to Rodrygo at the start of the second period. The youngster came on for Lucas Paqueta at halftime in an attempt to ramp up Selecao’s threat in the final third and the decision paid off.

It was the young sensation who assisted Casemiro’s goal in the 83rd minute. Receiving the ball from Vinicius, Rodrygo just flicked the ball away from defenders and into the feet of Casemiro to set up an ideal half-volley.

Apart from his assist, the Real Madrid man came painfully close to scoring in the 94th minute only to be denied by Manuel Akanji. He had one shot on target, one blocked, and a key pass.

Federico Valverde (Uruguay vs Portugal)

Uruguay have perhaps been the most disappointing team in the World Cup this year. The squad is filled with quality players from Rodrigo Bentancur and Darwin Nunez to Luis Suarez, Federico Valverde and Diego Godin.

The South Americans once again dished out an average game against Portugal, but it was Valverde who seemed the most inspiring in the Uruguayan team.

The in-form midfielder did not pose much threat to the goal on the night but worked like a machine off the ball. He recorded three interceptions, and two tackles, and won two tackles against Fernando Santos’ side in addition to a key pass and a big chance created. 

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