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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Mallorca | La Liga

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Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid return to action on Wednesday after the Christmas break and stare an action-packed calendar in the eye. Their next three games, after all, are set to take place across three different competitions.

The Merengues’ actions begins with Wednesday’s clash against Mallorca before they travel away to take on Arandina in the Copa del Rey.

The men in white must then endure a long journey to Saudi Arabia where they take on Atletico Madrid in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.

Considering that Real Madrid’s two Cup fixtures are knockout clashes, tomorrow’s game against Mallorca becomes further important. It gives Carlo Ancelotti’s men the ideal chance to test the waters and pick up where they left off in 2023.

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

Defensive deficit

The clash against Mallorca might well go down as one of Real Madrid’s most dire times in terms of personnel available. After all, Carlo Ancelotti has just one centre-back available for the clash tomorrow.

David Alaba’s recent ACL injury sent the alarm bells in Madrid ringing, for the men in white were reduced to just two available starting options in central defence following the setback. It did not take long for that situation to worsen.

Playing against Alaves, Nacho Fernandez had himself sent off early in the second half for a dangerous tackle. The captain will thus miss tomorrow’s clash against Mallorca at home, leaving Ancelotti with Antonio Rudiger as his only available centre-back.

As the Italian gaffer stressed in his pre-match press conference, Real Madrid are not looking to sign any replacement defender to provide cover in the position. Instead, Aurelien Tchouameni is set to take up the responsibility and tomorrow will be his first test in the position in 2024.

Needless to say, a large part of the result, and how Real Madrid begin their new year, will depend on the Frenchman and his combination with Rudiger. A poor showing may even reopen Los Blancos’ interest on the transfer front.

Golden returns

Carvajal and Vinicius are back. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

While the defensive inarguably faces a massive crisis, Ancelotti has his reasons to rejoice ahead of kickoff against Mallorca. After all, the manager has received three crucial returns in the buildup to the first game of the new year.

The first, and biggest return is that of Vinicius Jr. The Brazilian miraculously pioneered a speedy recovery from an injury that posed a poor prognosis and has been included in the squad to play tomorrow. A start cannot be ruled out.

The second big boost is the recovery of Dani Carvajal’s services. The Spaniard was out for the better part of December through injury, and while Lucas Vazquez did a great job at providing cover, the former will return to the starting lineup against Mallorca.

Finally, the clash at the Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow could well be the night Arda Guler makes his debut for Real Madrid. The injury-riddled star has finally broken free from the shackles of his fitness and has made it to the matchday squad for the first time this season.

Needless to say, all eyes will be on the young starlet who has been impressing in training to no end. The Turkish phenom, after all, is one of world football’s most promising assets.

Time to pull away

After an endless race against Girona at the top of the table, Real Madrid drew level on terms with the flying Catalans towards the business end of December.

Both teams currently sit on 45 points after 18 games with 14 draws, three draws, and a loss to their name. Atletico Madrid follow closely behind with 38 points while Barcelona sit in fourth place with as many points to their name.

Matchday 19, which marks the halfway point in the season, is thus critical for the leaderboard in numerous ways.

For starters, Real Madrid’s clash against relatively out-of-form Mallorca gives them great chances of taking all three points on the night. Girona’s gargantuan fixture only makes the situation more pleasant for Ancelotti’s men.

The Catalans are set to play Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid later this week in a high-profile clash. Needless to say, the chances of Girona dropping points on the matchday is higher than that of Los Blancos, giving Real Madrid their best chance ever to pull away clear at the top of the table.

A three-point lead over Girona and a seven-point lead over Barcelona, after all, would be a phenomenal way to enter the second half of the league season.

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Features

Kroos, Courtois start in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could lineup against Real Betis

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Photo via Getty Images

Having won the league comfortably after accumulating 94 points in 37 games, Real Madrid’s main objective for the last game of the season, set to go ahead tomorrow, against Real Betis, would be to finish on 97 points.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side are coming off a 4-4 draw against Villarreal last weekend, Madrid will be looking to end the domestic season with a win, which would also serve as a huge confidence boost ahead of their Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund.

Reports have suggested that Ancelotti is alternating his lineup ahead of the UCL final to keep his troops fit and gunning. And after rotations last week against Villarreal, all signs point towards the best XI taking the field vs Betis.

Keeping that in mind, Madrid Universal takes a jab at the 14-time Champions League winners’ final starting lineup of the season for their game against Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis.

Defence: Militao or Nacho?

Andriy Lunin returned to guard the posts against Villarreal, which could be a sign that Ancelotti is preparing to use Thibaut Courtois as his goalkeeper against Dortmund. As such, we expect the Belgian to handle the gloves tomorrow.

Daniel Carvajal is expected to replace Lucas Vazquez as the right-back, while Ferland Mendy returns to take over his left-back role.

Antonio Rudiger’s spot does not seem to be in any threat at all, but there are question marks over who will start alongside him, especially on the back of Eder Militao’s disastrous performance vs Villarreal.

Consequently, Nacho might get the nod tomorrow, especially since it could be his last game for Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Midfield: Farewell Toni

While Nacho’s future is still up in the air, Toni Kroos announced his decision to leave Madrid at the end of the season on a free transfer. He will play his final game at home tomorrow, and is expected to get a huge farewell.

Kroos’ last game in Madrid colours. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Federico Valverde will aid him in midfield, playing on the right side of the trident, while Eduardo Camavinga starts as the defensive midfielder to cover for the injured Aurelien Tchouameni.

Attack: No doubts

The attack pretty much picks itself, especially if Ancelotti is truly planning on mirroring the lineup that will likely start the Champions League final as well.

Jude Bellingham will retain his spot as the false 9, playing slightly off left as he has done more so in recent weeks.

Brazilian powerhouse Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo will get the license to start as the two forwards up top, playing in front of Bellingham.

Off the bench

Joselu will almost definitely get some minutes tomorrow, and more than likely in the Champions League final as well, especially owing to his brilliance against Bayern Munich in the semi-finals.

Similarly, Ancelotti could opt to experiment with Luka Modric in midfield in the second half, especially if Tchouameni does not make it back in time to full fitness ahead of the final.

Eder Militao and Arda Guler are also in for some minutes tomorrow, with the latter on the scoresheet four time sin the last three games.

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