Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Elche
On Wednesday night, Santiago Bernabeu will host a clash between two polar ends of the table.
Real Madrid are the team with the second-most points won in the league so far and have dropped just 15 of a possible 60 points so far.
Their opponents on the night, Elche, have managed just nine points in as many games and have been the worst-performing team in the division by a margin.
Pablo Machin’s side have won just one of their 20 games so far and sit ten points behind 19th-placed Getafe.
Many have dubbed relegation as unavoidable for Elche, but the team managed to churn out its first win of the season just last week over the mighty Villarreal. Fresh from their exploits over the Yellow Submarines, they arrive at Santiago Bernabeu with a feeble, yet possible hope of surviving relegation.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Elche.
1. Propelled to success
The World Club Champions return to Santiago Bernabeu for the first time on Wednesday since winning the title in Morocco at the weekend. Newly bestowed with the reputed status, the onus will be on Real Madrid to hold up against the standards.
The title of World champion brings with it a world of pressure. Ironically, however, it is concurrently a force that can push the side to greater heights.
As echoed by players who spoke to the press after Saturday’s game, the taste of silverware has only replenished Real Madrid’s hunger for titles.
A crucial five months lie ahead of Carlo Ancelotti’s men, and a great part of how it progresses will depend on how they channel the newfound purpose on the field.
The clash against Elche marks the beginning of a critical period in the European Champions’ season. The UEFA Champions League returns next week, while Barcelona awaits them in the Copa del Rey later this month.
On the league front, the men in white are eleven points behind Barcelona and cannot afford to drop any more points. Los Blancos must thus think of the Club World Cup win as a timely reminder of their quality and look to push harder right from the clash on Wednesday.
2. Rodrygo’s golden chance
Since his coming to form last season, Vinicius Jr has gone on to become an irreplaceable part of Real Madrid’s starting lineup. The Brazilian has his name engraved on the left wing under Carlo Ancelotti and carries his good form into the 2022-23 season.
The 22-year-old has started all 20 of Real Madrid’s La Liga clashes this season and five of their six games in the UEFA Champions League. Across the two competitions, he has scored 11 goals and provided four assists.
The youngster is set to miss his first league game of the campaign midweek after receiving his fifth yellow card in Real Madrid’s defeat to Mallorca. Rodrygo Goes will be the one to replace him on the left wing against Elche, as confirmed by Carlo Ancelotti in his pre-match press conference.
Rodrygo has grabbed all his opportunities this season by the scruff and has regularly made an impact coming off the bench. However, he has struggled to establish himself as a regular starter and has fighting against Federico Valverde and Marco Asensio for a spot on the right all season.
A mostly assured start thus arrives as a massive opportunity for the 22-year-old who already has nine goal contributions to his name in this season’s La Liga. Going up against last-placed Elche, he will fancy his chances of making a tangible impact.
3. The big left-back call
With Ferland Mendy’s injury last month came Carlo Ancelotti’s way a torrent of dilemmas. After all, David Alaba’s injury meant the manager had no natural left-back at his disposal.
In the face of adversity, Eduardo Camavinga stepped out of his comfort zone and played as a left-back for the club.
Surprisingly, the French midfielder did not appear like a fish out of water despite playing a completely different role and made himself a regular starter in defence for five games.
Now, David Alaba is available at Ancelotti’s disposal, having completely overcome his fitness setbacks. Thus, the manager will be forced into a difficult decision ahead of kickoff.
As the Italian tactician revealed in his media interaction, Camavinga’s performances did not warrant replacement in any capacity. The Austrian international’s previous experience as a left-back opens up the possibility of him replacing the midfielder. It remains to be seen as to which side Ancelotti leans on the night.
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.