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

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Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid were put to a taxing test against Napoli midweek at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium. They did come out as 3-2 victors, but it is safe to say that the game left the players dead on their feet.

Having returned home, Los Blancos must take on Osasuna in an early kickoff tomorrow as part of Matchday 9 in La Liga EA Sports.

Jaboba Arrasate’s men have had a mixed start to the new campaign, winning thrice and losing four times in eight games so far. They currently sit in ninth place on the standings with ten points to their name.

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

A repeat of the cup final

Real Madrid did not have a memorable 2022/23 campaign. They failed to get past Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League, finished second in La Liga and were far from as consistent as they would have liked to be.

Yet, the one silver lining on their calendar was the Copa del Rey. En route to the title, they defeated arch-rivals Barcelona after a sensational second-leg comeback to earn a place in the final. The grand finale saw Los Blancos take on none other than Osasuna.

The Pamplona-based side enjoyed a stunning run in the competition last season, downing the likes of Sevilla, Athletic Club, and Real Betis to earn a final berth. 

In the 90 minutes that panned out at Estadio de La Cartuja in the final, Real Madrid did not have it easy. Osasuna fought neck-to-neck for every ball and were practically and statistically at par with Los Blancos.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men got the early lead on the night, but their opponents refused to give up and conjured their resources to level the score close to the hour mark. In the end, only a Rodrygo goal in the 70th minute separated the two rivals.

The Copa del Rey final only serves to remind one of the sheer grit and resilience endowed in the Pamplona-based side. Tomorrow’s game against the same opposition will be anything but easy.

Defensive crisis

With Alaba out, Tchouameni or Mendy could start at centre-back. (Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)

Eder Militao’s injury and Nacho Fernandez’s suspension leave Carlo Ancelotti short-staffed in central defence. There was hope over David Alaba’s recovery ahead of tomorrow’s clash, and a final decision was awaited today.

As part of his routine pre-match press conference, Ancelotti confirmed that the Austrian international had not completely recovered and would not participate against Jagoba Arrasate’s men.

“The options we have are Mendy or Tchouaméni. You will know tomorrow, I know today,” he added when asked who would join Antonio Rudiger in central defence.

Both Ferland Mendy and Aurelien Tchouameni are capable of playing in the foreign position, although it remains to be seen to what capacity. In any case, it can not be good news for Real Madrid to start such a tricky fixture without two natural defenders.

Mendy would appear better placed to play centrally on the night given Tchouameni’s importance in midfield. After all, reports yesterday brought out that the pivot player would not be particularly pleased over playing in defence.

Finish on a high

The past 20 days have been gruelling for Real Madrid. The months of September and October historically bring the most packed schedules for top football clubs, but something about this year’s schedule made it seem more cruel than ever.

Real Madrid have played games with less than 48 hours of rest at times in recent weeks and have had two games every week. Needless to say, the hectic calendar takes a toll on the players despite rotation.

Tomorrow marks Los Blancos’ final game of the gruelling sector. No matches are scheduled over the next two weeks, although players will still be on duty with their respective national team setups.

Carlo Ancelotti could ask for nothing better than to close out on a high. Real Madrid have won five of the six games over the last three weeks, and it is only fitting that they finish with the momentum on their side before they disperse.

More importantly, it will be a massive confidence booster for the manager and the dressing room to close out the latest segment as the leaders both in La Liga and in Group C of the UEFA Champions League.

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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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