Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Osasuna
After a two-week hiatus from club football, Real Madrid return to action on Sunday night in a home game against Osasuna. The league leaders have been unstoppable so far this season, and the objective at the Bernabeu will be to keep their fine form going.
Jagoba Arrasate’s side have enjoyed a positive start to the season with four wins in six games so far. The Pamplona-based side sit sixth in the league standings ahead of the likes of Villarreal and Atletico Madrid.
Carlo Ancelotti will make several changes in his starting lineup on the night – some forced and some out of choice. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Los Blancos’ weekend clash.
1. Time to kick in the nitros
Real Madrid have been flawless this season and are the only club in the European top-flight to have not dropped a single point. While their start to the season has been nothing short of a fairytale, one wonders how long they can keep the magical streak going.
The month of October brings with it one of the most hectic schedules the club has seen in recent years. Over the next 30 days, Los Blancos play nine games across all competitions. In short, the equation boils down to a game every three days.
To come out on top in all nine games will require a superhuman effort from the Real Madrid players, but one knows well that the squad is capable of it. The team are in a strong headspace, and injecting the right amount of fuel at this point could propel their throttle and see them weather the storm.
A job well begun is half done, and Carlo Ancelotti will hope that his men can make a strong start to the month on Sunday night.
2. Coping without Modric
The FIFA International break has been cruel to clubs across the globe, with several key players returning injured and facing several weeks on the sidelines. The story for Real Madrid is no different.
Luka Modric played every minute of Croatia’s two friendlies in the last two weeks and even scored a goal in their 3-1 win over Austria. However, he suffered an injury to his hip and faces 8-10 days on the sidelines.
The veteran, at 37 years of age, has arguably been Real Madrid’s best player this season. In eight games, he has scored two goals and provided one assist for Los Blancos and continues to show the world why he is one of the best the game has seen.
Modric is expected to return for the Clasico in two weeks. However, one cannot help but wonder how Ancelotti compensates for such a big void.
It has been reported that the manager sees Dani Ceballos as the ideal man for the job. The 26-year-old impressed when given the start against Mallorca earlier this season, making four key passes and bagging one assist. Now, he could have his moment and a chance to prove his worth to the manager.
In Modric’s absence, Ceballos could start alongside Aurelien Tchouameni and Toni Kroos in the middle of the park. With Eduardo Camavinga quickly climbing up the pecking order, the 26-year-old must make the most of his chance on Sunday to secure a place in the coming games.
3. The return of the gladiator
After a slow start to the season, Karim Benzema bounced back with a brace against Espanyol on Matchday three. Just when it seemed like he had found his stride, however, he suffered a thigh injury and was ruled out for close to three weeks.
While the team found alternate sources of goals in his absence, it was clear that Los Blancos lacked a dominant presence in the box in recent weeks. With Benzema’s recovery close to complete, all eyes will be on him to see if he can find his feet again.
In his pre-match press conference, Ancelotti confirmed that the French international would start on Sunday though it is unlikely that he will play all 90 minutes. Nevertheless, this comes as a big relief to Real Madrid, given that they have no natural replacement for the centre-forward.
The captain will look to make a statement on his return on Sunday and will likely be deployed alongside Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo.
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.