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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Espanyol

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Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

The Santiago Bernabeu is often described as one of the most daunting venues for any visiting team. Playing in front of the home supporters gives Real Madrid a sizeable advantage in any fixture, regardless of the opposition.

It is thus worrying enough for the European Champions to drop points in two successive games at the Bernabeu. To follow up these poor performances against Barcelona and Atletico Madrid with a draw against Real Betis does not bode well.

Real Madrid return to the Bernabeu on Saturday to take on Espanyol in their 25th league game of the season.

Los Blancos have not dropped points against the Catalan side at home since 2012 and will hope to keep their streak going on Saturday. After all, it is the need of the hour to put an end to their miserable run of form.

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

1. Danger in disguise

Diego Martinez’s Espanyol are one of Spain’s most frustrating sides to play against. The Parakeets sit in 13th place in La Liga with just six wins in their 24 games. However, the statistics are deceptive at first glance.

Espanyol have drawn nine games in La Liga this season and taken points off some of the league’s biggest names. It may be easy to avoid a loss against the Catalan side, but it has proven to be difficult to take all three points against them even for Spain’s creme-de-la-creme.

So far this season, Martinez’s side have taken all three points against Athletic Club at San Mames and even escaped with a draw against Atletico Madrid at Civitas Metropolitano.

Their most notable result, however, was their draw against in-form league leaders FC Barcelona at Spotify Camp Nou as they took the game to Xavi’s side in the Catalan Derby. Given Real Madrid’s recent form, the Merengues would be an opposition Espanyol would fancy their chances against.

Carlo Ancelotti, needless to say, must be wary on the afternoon. Even the slightest negligence from either the manager or the players could rub salt into Real Madrid’s fresh wounds.

2. A misfiring and handicapped forward department

No Benzema for Real Madrid against Espanyol (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

“I’m upset more than angry. It’s not normal that a team with this much quality doesn’t score more than one goal in the last three games,” a clearly distraught Carlo Ancelotti said after Real Madrid’s draw against Real Betis last weekend.

As stated by the manager himself, the Merengues‘ problem in recent games has been straightforward – the misfiring attack.

For a team with the likes of Vinicius Jr, Karim Benzema, Rodrygo Goes and Federico Valverde playing in the final third, it is almost criminal to score just one goal in three games. More importantly, the team’s goal drought is not only a result of poor finishing but a glaring dearth of chances created.

Ancelotti’s men created just three big chances against ten-man Atletico Madrid last month before hitting their lowest against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey. Despite dominating 65% of the possession against the Catalans, Real Madrid had just one big chance and no goals to their name.

The situation did not improve last weekend against Real Betis. In ninety minutes at the Benito Villamarin, the Merengues managed to create just one big chance.

On Saturday, Real Madrid must look to overcome their purple patch in attack with the additional blow of not having Karim Benzema. The Frenchman is sidelined through ankle discomfort, putting the onus on Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo Goes to lead the attack.

Can Real Madrid strike back through the adversities and deliver a statement performance in the final third without a central striker? Ancelotti will be compelled to think so, for he is already treading a tightrope.

3. High time to turn things around

The period following Real Madrid’s 5-2 destruction of Liverpool was expected to be a bed of roses. Coming off an unprecedented confidence booster, many expected the men in white to return rejuvenated and focussed.

Of the four games that stood between the two legs of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, Los Blancos have played three with no wins to show.

The game against Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu could well be Real Madrid’s final chance to get back on track ahead of a tantalizing schedule. Ancelotti’s men face Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Valladolid and Barcelona again in their next four fixtures and cannot afford to enter them off a winless run.

The pressure to win is thus equally on both the manager and the players ahead of the game against the Catalan side. After all, another poor performance on Saturday could well derail the defending champions’ season on all fronts.

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Features

Five players who will be fixed starters for Real Madrid next season

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Following a successful campaign, Real Madrid are poised for significant changes in their roster due to a combination of player arrivals and departures.

The responsibility of blending new faces with established stars will fall to coach Carlo Ancelotti and his staff as they aim to maintain the club’s competitive edge domestically and in Europe.

And to predict the team’s probable strategy and performance amidst these changes, it is imperative to identify the key players who will be constant starters.

Kylian Mbappe

The new talisman. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

With Real Madrid no longer viewing Mbappe through rose-tinted lenses and finally being able to dress him in the royal white jersey, the Frenchman is expected to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Owing to his instinctive nature to find the back of the net, he is poised to be paired alongside Vinicius Jr. in attack.

Last season, the 2018 World Cup winner scored a whopping 44 goals in all competitions. Thus Real Madrid will be banking heavily on Mbappe’s ability to ask questions of opposition defenders in the final third.

It is being said that Mbappe is all set to wear the iconic number 9 jersey at Real Madrid, which is indicative of the role he will play, as a focal striker.

Vinicius Jr.

The main man at Real Madrid. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Brazilian is in pole position to win the Ballon d’Or this year, and looking back on his season with Real Madrid, it is easy to see why.

Despite losing Karim Benzema, his usual partner in crime over the past few years, Vinicius performed remarkably well in Ancelotti’s new system.

Relentlessly taking on defenders, arriving into space, scoring goals, and stepping up in the biggest of moments, he was one of Real Madrid’s major lynchpins throughout the season as they lifted a historic double.

Vinicius impressively racked up 24 goals last season, and given his importance to the team, the likelihood of him not maintaining a starting role next season is nearly nonexistent.

Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid Fans’ Player of the Season. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Defying all expectations in his debut season, Jude Bellingham established himself as a key player for Real Madrid, demonstrating exceptional versatility, and maturity far beyond his years.

Although the Englishman’s performances wavered in the final stretch of the season, Bellingham’s contributions ensured Los Blancos were able to compete in the Champions League and especially La Liga.

In addition to scoring 23 goals in all competitions, he has constantly been a beacon of reliability in midfield and has proven to be the voice of reason on the pitch.

There have been murmurs about Bellingham potentially being berthed deeper next season as Real Madrid intends to use him as Kroos’ replacement. However, given his versatility, he is expected to be a crucial player wherever he plays.

Antonio Rudiger

A mainstay at the back. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Rudiger is one of the major reasons Real Madrid managed to successfully disguise their injury crisis. Despite players falling like dominos in the back-line, the German stood resolutely as a dependable figure for most of the campaign, arguably enjoying one of his best seasons.

Expertly anticipating opposition strikers’ movements, he leaps forward to thwart attacks before they begin. Moreover, thanks to his large stature and incredible recovery pace, he is able to cover distances behind.

Reports have mentioned that Carlo Ancelotti views him as a crucial component of the squad and potential arrivals, such as those of Leny Yoro and Rafa Marin, in the back-line are unlikely to devalue his presence.

Thibaut Courtois

Back like he was never gone. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

In spite of spending more than half of the campaign on the sidelines recovering from an ACL and MCL injury, Courtois is worth his weight in gold for Real Madrid.

He performed admirably in the final few games of the season and did no wrong against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League final.

While Andriy Lunin made up for his absence with flying colours, he is placed below Courtois in the pecking order for now, which also has made the Ukrainian lean towards an exit.

The fact that Lunin, after his sublime season, stands no chance of dethroning Courtois between the sticks is a testament to how much the club appreciates the Belgian. Even at the age of 32, the Belgian keeper is anticipated to retain an important role in the team.

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