Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Espanyol
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
“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.
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.