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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Girona



Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Matchday 12 of La Liga pits Real Madrid against Girona in an early kickoff on Sunday. The table-toppers are the only unbeaten side in the league this season and have dropped points only once in the campaign.

Michel’s men are in a spot of bother 11 games into the season. The team are tucked into the relegation zone and could well finish the Matchday at rock bottom on the standings if Elche can get the better of Getafe.

Simply put, a win on Sunday would mean more to Girona than it would to the champions. Real Madrid must be wary of the threat though and not take the result for granted, especially after coming off their first defeat of the season against RB Leipzig.

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

1. One step backward, two steps forward

Real Madrid’s explosive start to the season made the world believe they were inconquerable. The men in white did not lose in 11 La Liga games and 16 games across all competitions, thereby registering their best start to a season in close to a decade.

However, the unthinkable happened at the RB Arena last week when Carlo Ancelotti’s men ended up second-best against RB Leipzig. Marco Rose’s men were too fast and too clinical for Real Madrid’s rotated team on the night and registered a scoreline of 3-2 over the Merengues.

Yet, Real Madrid have never been a team to be scarred by defeats. Unlike some other big clubs in Europe that tend to get flustered after a setback, Los Blancos have always used it to fuel themselves further and that is what Ancelotti will hope for on Sunday.

Against a struggling side like Girona, the hosts have an ideal chance to assert their dominance and get back to winning ways. The team may have taken one step backward, but fans can be fairly confident that Real Madrid will take at least two steps forward in return.

2. Return of the midfield maestros

The European Champions missed several key personnel during their defeat to Leipzig. If one department suffered more than others with absentees, it would have to be the midfield.

The team were without both Luka Modric and Federico Valverde on the night. While the latter has arguably been the side’s MVP this season, one cannot understate the importance of the Croatian genius on the field.

Ancelotti confirmed that both players will be back for the weekend’s clash which comes as a big boost. After sitting out the last game, both players could well start on the night with Modric deployed in midfield and Valverde on the right wing.

Modric, Valverde back but no Benzema (Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Aleix Garcia has been a monster in the midfield for Michel’s side his season, averaging 2.5 key passes per game and providing two assists so far. In his last appearance alone, he recorded four key passes and was the team’s creator-in-chief.

Needless to say, Los Blancos will need their best midfielders to go head-to-head against the 25-year-old and thus neutralise Girona’s threat.

3. A final stretch based in Madrid

Less than two weeks of club football remain before the players disperse to their respective national team setups for the FIFA World Cup. In that duration, Ancelotti’s side play four games – a match every three days.

Most top European clubs face similarly hectic schedules in the closing weeks before the long hiatus. However, the La Liga champions have a massive hidden advantage over their competitors.

Over the next two weeks, Los Blancos need not cross the border of Madrid for any encounter. In what happens to be a surprising combination of events, Real Madrid plays hosts in three of their next four games, and the only away game is scheduled at Estadio de Vallecas in Madrid against Rayo Vallecano.

The series of games at Santiago Bernebeu begins tomorrow when the men in white host Girona. The midweek Champions League clash against Celtic will take place at the same venue before the team travel downtown to take on Rayo. The final game before the World Cup sees real Madrid play Cadiz, once again at the Bernabeu.

The club are fortunate to have the continuous home advantage in such a tight calendar and will look to capitalise on it to the fullest. That process must begin tomorrow, for a good start will go a long way in ensuring a powerful run.

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Three talking points from Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | La Liga



Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

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

Carvajal had a forgettable game (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

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.

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