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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo

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Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid are not in the best of moments as it stands, either from a mental headspace or a sporting point of view. Fresh from the scars of Mestalla and the feeling of betrayal that the clash left in the players and fans alike, Los Blancos enter tonight’s clash against Celta Vigo far from their confident selves.

Moreover, their display in midweek against RB Leipzig was dismal and exhibited a hint of self-doubt that is usually not a feature of Real Madrid performances. The men in white got over the line, nevertheless, and are now through to the final eight of the UEFA Champions League.

Tonight, they return to action in La Liga against relegation-threatened Celta Vigo, and all eyes will be on their ability to dish out a flawless and dominant performance.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo.

Worrying form?

Real Madrid have played many beautiful games of football this season, but their level perhaps peaked exactly one month ago.

Facing off against Girona exactly four weeks before tomorrow’s game, Los Blancos lit the park on fire against their biggest competitors in La Liga. Michel’s men were one of Spain’s most in-form teams ahead of kickoff, but Los Blancos put four past the Catalans and stole away a lead in the title race.

Purely from a results perspective, they have been on a fine run ever since. Real Madrid are yet to lose a game after the clash against Girona and have cemented a solid lead in La Liga.

Yet, there is a matter of concern over the team’s performance. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have looked increasingly dysfunctional in recent games, having dropped points thrice in their last six games. Their wins have not been convincing by any measure either.

The men in white, in fact, have dropped points in both of their last two games. Not once before this season have they suffered such a record, and the slow dip in form is a matter of concern for the manager.

Heading into the clash against Celta Vigo, the primary goal will be to secure the three points and put an end to the two-game draw streak. More importantly, however, the team needs a convincing win to once again announce their return to form.

Punishment too severe

No Bellingham for Real Madrid. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images)

Real Madrid were hard done at the Mestalla last weekend. Taking on Valencia in La Liga, the men in white quickly went two goals down and found themselves staring at defeat for the third time this season. Yet, they miraculously pulled two goals back and appeared to even do enough to take home all three points.

Jude Bellingham, late into stoppage time, got on the end of Brahim Diaz’s cross and headed the ball into the back of the net. Unbelievably, however, referee Gil Manzano blew the full-time whistle while the ball was airborne, leading to the goal being annulled.

To make matters worse, Bellingham was shown a red card for his protest against the official’s mistake. It has since been proved that Manzano’s decision was unjustified, but Bellingham’s two-game ban stands and the youngster will thus miss tomorrow’s clash.

Speaking to the media ahead of the game, Ancelotti stressed the same, for not having the team’s most in-form player is indeed a huge blow. Bellingham’s punishment may indeed be too severe for the crime he committed, but the manager’s focus tomorrow will be on finding the right tactical replacement.

Striking the balance

When Carlo Ancelotti was asked what he would change in the team after the tame 1-1 draw against RB Leipzig earlier in the week, he pointed the finger at himself. After all, it was his poor tactical decision that caused mayhem on the field.

The Italian tactician deployed five midfielders against the German opposition, hoping to catch them off guard and dominate the middle of the field of play. The adjustment, however, came at the cost of Rodrygo in attack, leaving Real Madrid with only Vinicius up top.

The first half saw Leipzig run all over Ancelotti’s tweaked system, and the visitors were unlucky to have not broken through. The biggest lesson from the game, thus, was that striking the right balance is the key to a successful team.

Ancelotti, for starters, must return to his usual 4-4-2 against Celta with either Joselu or Rodrygo starting with Vinicius up front. Bellingham’s place, meanwhile, would be best trusted in the hands of Brahim Diaz who has been in spectacular form all season.

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Features

Real Madrid 3-2 FC Barcelona – Player Ratings

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Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

Still fatigued from their weary 120 minutes midweek against Manchester City, Real Madrid took on Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier today in a fascinating clash.

Unlike the two previous games between the two sides this season, tonight’s Clasico was a very tight affair with both teams having their chances to steal the show. 

Andreas Christensen opened the scoring for Barcelona early in the night, giving the visitors the lead. A clean penalty conversion from Vinicius Jr, however, soon pulled one back for Los Blancos.

Fermin Lopez’s goal gave the Catalans the lead once more in the second period but the advantage was short-lived as Lucas Vazquez cut the deficit once more.

In the end, Jude Bellingham scored an injury-time winner for the men in white and Real Madrid got the result they required. The league title now appears written in their name.

Madrid Universal brings you the player ratings from El Clasico.

Andriy Lunin: 5

A relatively shaky night for the Ukrainian shot-stopper who never really looked confident with his saves. Was very poor in Andreas Christensen’s opener with his decision-making and came very close to conceding to a Lamine Yamal flick in the first half. 

Was directly at fault for the Blaugranas’ second goal of the night as he pushed the ball straight into the path of Fermin Lopez.

Lucas Vazquez: 10

A strong display from the Spanish full-back who once again showed that he is a potent force in the final third. Won the penalty for Real Madrid after some masterful trickery on the flank, setting up the team’s equaliser.

Found a stunning half-volley to stun Barcelona minutes after their second goal, levelling the scores once more. Was vital in the buildup for the team’s winner as well.

Sensational. (Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)

Aurelien Tchouameni: 6.5

The French centre-back was presumably chosen for his prowess in the air but was nowhere to be seen when Christensen netted Barcelona’s opener. Was regularly poor in defending against set pieces, especially at the far post.

Antonio Rudiger: 7

The German centre-back led the team’s defensive unit but was also far from his best on the night. Did not make any glaring mistakes, but fatigue is likely to have impacted his influence.

Eduardo Camavinga: 6

The young phenom started the game well and was a lively presence in the final third. However, he soon began to struggle to keep up with Barcelona’s Lamine Yamal who began running havoc down the flank.

Was caught napping for Yamal’s cross that set up Barcelona’s second goal of the night and was dribbled past twice. Replaced by Fran Garcia at the 70-minute mark.

Federico Valverde: 7

Real Madrid’s midfield machine was undoubtedly fatigued on the night, yet came out at the team’s most valuable asset off the ball.

Completed seven defensive actions and 92% of his passes, executing his duties well.

Toni Kroos: 8

Sitting deep in the defensive midfield, Kroos was instrumental in holding the fortress for Real Madrid on the break. Silky smooth as ever with his distribution and creativity, combined with some no-nonsense defending.

Luka Modric: 8

Showing his quality. (Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images)

A good showing from the Croatian talisman who controlled the midfield alongside Kroos and Valverde throughout the first half. 

Jude Bellingham: 9

A much-improved performance from the Golden Boy who has been under scrutiny in recent weeks for his dip in form.

Bellingham was vital on the break for Real Madrid, dictating the attacking play of the team. He was immaculate with his passing range and completed 100% of his attempted dribbles.

Of all the Real Madrid players, Bellingham was likely the one who put in the biggest defensive shift when out of possession. Found the back of the net in emphatic fashion in the final minutes of the game to give his side the win.

Vinicius Jr: 8

Another Clasico goal. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

Not the Brazilian phenom’s best night on the grasses of the Santiago Bernabeu as he struggled to conjure up much on the counters. Regardless, he scored a vital penalty and even came close to assisting Rodrygo twice in the first half.

Laid the ball on a platter for Lucas Vazquez, setting up the team’s second goal.

Rodrygo Goes: 7

While Rodrygo did not enjoy too much freedom in the final third either, his runs between the lines often created problems for the visitors. Yet, one felt Real Madrid should have capitalised more on the 23-year-old’s presence in the final third.

SUBSTITUTES

Brahim Diaz: 7

Brought life to Real Madrid’s counterattacks after coming on, although he did not really get into the game considering Los Blancos’ defence-heavy strategy.

Fran Garcia: 7

Did relatively well to defend against Yamal, and demonstrated more defensive awareness than Camavinga.

Eder Militao: NA

Came on too late to make a tangible impact.

Joselu: NA

Came on too late to make a tangible impact.

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