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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Celta Vigo

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Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

Barcelona’s two draws in their last two La Liga appearances have seen them drop four of a possible six points. Under normal circumstances, the gap between Real Madrid and the leaders should have been reduced by the same number. However, the Merengues‘ loss to Villarreal changed the equation.

With nine games to go, the Catalans’ lead is a healthy 11 points. However, they face Atletico Madrid at the weekend and could well drop points again.

Real Madrid’s clash against Celta Vigo tonight thus becomes critical. A win on Saturday would reduce the deficit to eight points and put pressure on Xavi Hernandez’s side to toil hard against a stingy opposition.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of the clash at the Santiago Bernabeu.

1. A schedule with no respite

The tail end of the season in the football world is always hectic for Europe’s elite. With all competitions nearing their business end simultaneously, there is rarely scope to take a game for granted.

While it is true that a true champion should be able to weather any storm, there is a certain human element to be considered. In that sense, it is inhuman for Real Madrid to play a game every three days for months at end.

The Merengues‘ deep run into the UEFA Champions League has seen them play midweek regularly in addition to the weekly matchdays of La Liga. Add to that the games from Copa del Rey and one can imagine the exhausting schedule that stares down at the club.

Carlo Ancelotti openly talked about the impossible schedule his team were faced with and the practical difficulties of rolling out performances at the highest level with such frequency. Having less than 72 hours to recuperate between games regularly, the risk of injuries rises significantly too.

The Spanish Champions took on Chelsea in the first leg on the 12th of April before facing Cadiz 72 hours later. They again had just three days before the second leg at Stamford Bridge kicked off and now play Celta Vigo less than a week later.

There is an urgent need to look into players’ welfare, especially on the topic of tight scheduling. After all, it is almost criminal for UEFA to not accommodate a team’s pre-existing schedule while drafting their fixtures.

2. Permutations and combinations

Rotations in bulk against Celta? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

Carlo Ancelotti’s only scope of escaping an overload on his stars on the night will be to smartly rotate his resources without compromising the quality on the field. Given the gold mine of resources the Italian tactician has at his disposal, it should not be a worry.

Eder Militao and Antonio Rudiger could start as the centre-backs against the Galician side with Nacho Fernandez and Lucas Vazquez playing as left-back and right-back respectively.

More thorough changes are expected in the middle of the park. Aurelien Tchouameni will almost surely start as the pivot on Saturday and look to regain his lost starting berth. He will most likely be accompanied by Dani Ceballos and Federico Valverde in all probability.

Ancelotti confirmed Karim Benzema’s availability and participation in his press conference and the Frenchman could start on the night. He will likely be accompanied by Marco Asensio to his right and Vinicius Jr to his left, with Rodrygo being given a break.

3. The Pichichi race

At the halfway mark in La Liga, Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski appeared as the runaway favourite to take home the Pichichi Award. However, the story now is far different.

The race for the top league scorer is now heating up, especially given Karim Benzema’s red-hot form and the Polish striker’s exponential fall in productivity. The end result is only a three-goal difference between the two.

Barcelona’s target man has found the back of the net 17 times this season in 25 appearances. Benzema, meanwhile, has 14 in just 19 games.

It is said that the French striker is obsessed with winning the Pichichi trophy this season and is willing to take part in every Real Madrid game until the end of the season to ensure it happens. Given his recent record in front of goal, it would not take long for Benzema to overtake Lewy.

The 35-year-old striker has seven goals and an assist in his last six games despite not completing most of the aforementioned matches. He has rediscovered his form in recent weeks, and the spotlight on Saturday will thus be on him to see if he can take another step towards Barcelona’s candidate.

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Features

Euro 2024: Rating every Real Madrid player’s performance at the tournament

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Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

The UEFA Euro 2024 came to an end last night with Spain being crowned the champions of Europe thanks to a 2-1 victory over England in Berlin.

Considering how well La Roja played throughout the tournament and their performance in the finals on Sunday night, they were the deserved winners of the trophy.

With Spain lifting the trophy, Real Madrid veteran defender Dani Carvajal added another title to his already successful campaign finishing 2023/24 as a La Liga, Champions League, and EURO winner.

Nacho and Joselu, who were still contracted with Real Madrid when the Euro started, joined Carvajal on that list while Jude Bellingham finished on the losing side.

Real Madrid had a total of 13 players representing them at the Euros in Germany and not all managed to make a solid impression. Here are how the Merengues’ stars fared at the European Championships.

Spain

Dani Carvajal: 8/10

The Spanish right-back was one of the stars of the show at the Euros, playing an integral role in La Roja’s success. Carvajal kicked off his first Euro with a goal in the opening game against Croatia and continued to be a reliable player for Spain both in defence and attack.

Carvajal forged a strong partnership with Barcelona’s Lamine Yamal on the right flank and even played a key role in the team’s opening goal against England in the final.

Nacho: 6/10

Technically no longer a Real Madrid player, Nacho was still contracted with the club when the Euros kicked off. Starting in the opener against Croatia, he helped Spain to a clean sheet against Croatia.

The veteran defender also put in solid shifts in the quarter-final and semi-final ties against Germany and France, respectively and helped see out the game against England last night.

Joselu: N/A

Behind the likes of Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal in the pecking order, Joselu, who left Real Madrid at the end of June, played just 90 minutes across two games.

England

Jude Bellingham: 6.5/10

Failed to deliver. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Having enjoyed a dream season with Real Madrid, Jude Bellingham was unable to replicate those performances for England.

While he did score two crucial goals, including a stunning bicycle kick to keep his team alive against Slovakia, and assisted Cole Palmer’s strike in the finals, his overall display left a lot to be desired.

France

Kylian Mbappe: 6/10

Real Madrid’s newest acquisition, all eyes were on Mbappe heading into the Euros. And even though France made it as far as the semi-finals, the 25-year-old failed to live up to the expectations with a nose injury impacting his displays.

Mbappe finished the tournament with a solitary goal and two assists, but as he admitted after the defeat to Spain, his Euro will go down as a failure.

Aurelien Tchouameni: 6/10

Making a return from injury during the tournament, the Real Madrid midfielder was a solid presence in the centre of the park for France alongside N’Golo Kante without really standing out a great deal.

The 24-year-old provided strength and stability in midfield for Les Bleus and even tried to get upfield in matches. But his shooting from distance was way off the mark.

Not up to the mark. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Eduardo Camavinga: 5/10

Starting just one of France’s six games and featuring as a substitute in three more, Eduardo Camavinga was not a major presence for Didier Deschamps’ side at the Euros which came as a surprise.

The Real Madrid starlet did show glimpses of quality when he did get a chance but not enough for him to make an impact.

Ferland Mendy: N/A

Having made a return to the France setup for the first time since 2022, Mendy did not play a single minute at the Euros, with former Real Madrid left-back, Theo Hernandez being preferred by the manager.

Germany

Antonio Rudiger: 7/10

Carrying on from where he left off for Real Madrid, Rudiger was a solid presence at the heart of the German defence at the Euros in his homeland.

Came up against some tricky forwards throughout the hosts’ quarterfinal run but did well to hold his own, but was guilty of losing Mikel Merino for Spain’s goal that eliminated Germany.

Toni Kroos: 6.5/10

It was not a fairytale ending for Kroos, who waved goodbye to his international career with a forgettable display against Spain during which he could have been easily sent off for the array of fouls he committed.

Prior to that, however, Kroos was instrumental for Germany in their run until the quarterfinals, stringing play together from the centre of the park.

Turkey

Arda Guler: 7/10

Arda Guler made a good impression at the Euros. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

One of the breakout stars of the Euros, Arda Guler showcased his talent and potential, helping Turkey to the quarterfinals of the tournament.

The 19-year-old started off with a wonder-goal against Georgia and also added two assists to his tally in his first major tournament, following in the footsteps of greats like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. A bright future awaits.

Croatia

Luka Modric: 6/10

Unlike recent years, Luka Modric’s Croatia were unable to get past the group stages, with the veteran midfielder finishing the tournament with a goal from under 240 minutes.

Ukraine

Andriy Lunin: 2/10

Started the tournament as Ukraine’s No. 1 against Romania but made costly errors that saw him lose his place in the starting XI. Did not feature again after the opener as his team crashed out of the group stages.

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