Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Celtic
Earlier this season, Real Madrid easily put away a strong Celtic side by three goals in the first matchday of the UEFA Champions League. Four games later in the competition, the two sides meet again, albeit under different circumstances.
Real Madrid recently hit the first big hiccup of their season in the form of a defeat to RB Leipzig. Days later, they stepped onto the field hoping for redemption against Girona. However, a combination of poor play and questionable refereeing led the hosts to drop two points.
While Celtic are yet to register their first points in the UCL, Real Madrid will play to secure the first spot on the standings with a dominant victory. The defending champions cannot afford to take the visitors lightly, however, for the Scottish side have been ruthless in their domestic campaign and have netted 42 goals in just 12 Premiership games.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid’s clash against Ange Postecoglou’s side.
1. Seeing off the hiccup
If Real Madrid’s loss to RB Leipzig was not a deep enough wound in itself, the team fell to a tame draw in their next game to smear salt onto the bruise.
Los Blancos are usually not a team to let a poor result get into their head and influence future performances. They are the mentality kings of Europe and have proved the strength of their mental game innumerable times on the biggest stage.
While Carlo Ancelotti’s men were underwhelming at the RB Arena last week, the same cannot be said about the game against Girona. On another day with another referee, all three points would be in Real Madrid’s bag.
That Real Madrid suffered a draw immediately after their first defeat of the season can be taken as a coincidence. However, a third successive poor result will raise questions about their form. Clearly, a win is the need of the hour both for the players and the manager.
2. The middle muddle
Carlo Ancelotti has several options for the middle of the park, yet only a few are really available for tomorrow’s game.
Aurelien Tchouameni is yet to fully recover from his muscular niggle and the manager has confirmed that the Frenchman will not participate in the game against Celtic. Meanwhile, Luka Modric played the entire 90 minutes against Girona and deserves a rest amidst the busy schedule.
Federico Valverde presents a strong case to start in midfield but the coach would prefer deploying the Uruguayan as a winger once again given his unbelievable recent record.
Given all the constraints, it is not difficult to predict Real Madrid’s midfield on the night. Toni Kroos will miss the next La Liga game through suspension and is well-placed to start against Celtic. He will likely be placed alongside Eduardo Camavinga and Dani Ceballos on the night, both of whom have something to prove to the manager with their performances.
3. Eyes on the pinnacle
The psychological aspect aside, Real Madrid have to win over Celtic even purely from the competition’s point of view.
Having played five group stage games so far, the men in white sit atop Group F standings in the UCL with ten points. RB Leipzig follow closely behind with nine points after registering a win over Real Madrid last week.
The top spot is in Los Blancos‘ hands as it stands, but only a win on Wednesday can guarantee them the privileged position. If they drop points against Celtic, however, they risk losing it to the German side who will jump to 12 points should they win against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Needless to say, Real Madrid will go all out and hope to seal their objective without depending on the result of the other game. That will not be easy, however, considering Celtic’s fearless and attacking brand of football.
The Scottish side have scored 42 goals in 12 Premiership games this season, conceding just nine in the process. They are currently the leaders of the Scottish league and will be keen to get the first win of their UCL campaign against the defending champions.
Three talking points from Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | La Liga
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
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.