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 ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli | UEFA Champions League
Fresh off their 3-0 win against Cadiz at the weekend, Real Madrid return to the field late on Wednesday night to take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A lot has changed since the two teams last met. Napoli sacked Rudi Garcia not so long ago and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new manager. The Italian got off to a great start in the form of a 2-1 win over Atalanta in his first game in the position.
Yet, he will face his first big test in the form of Real Madrid later tomorrow. The Naples-based side will have a lot to prove to their manager and the fans on the night, but it is clear that the Merengues will not treat the fixture lightly either.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli.
The headlining clash
The UEFA Champions League leaves fans spoilt for choice, for it offers the highest quality of football between some of the world’s best teams on a regular basis. The headlining fixtures begin as early as the group stages and only grow in promise as the season progresses.
When Real Madrid were drawn into Group C in this year’s UCL, all eyes were on the team that would take the next highest-seeded spot. It was eventually Napoli that made the cut, making the Spanish-Italian clash the group’s most-awaited game.
Since then, the two teams have already faced off once at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Matchday two of the competition. The clash was evenly balanced for the most part, but Jude Bellingham’s masterclass enabled a narrow 3-2 Real Madrid win.
Close to two months on, the two European giants face off once more, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot help but call the upcoming clash the title clash of the matchday, especially considering the two team’s recent history and what rides on the result.
Real Madrid’s place in the Round of 16 was confirmed after their win over SC Braga in the last matchday. Napoli, however, are yet to secure such confirmation and a defeat tomorrow could potentially reduce their gap over Braga to one point.
Napoli thus need the win to maintain security over their qualification, while Real Madrid hope to cement their place as group leaders with a win. With both teams having a lot riding on the result, the game will have no dearth of life on the night.
Carlo Ancelotti spent many a day in the recent international break plotting means to overcome his midfield crisis. After all, he was without the services of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga had also suffered a gruesome injury on national team duty.
The manager thus deployed his best midfield quartet for the clash against Cadiz, hoping to improve the harmony between the four stars. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham all started but the situation got ugly after the 38-year-old walked off injured in the second half.
Ancelotti thus now faces a bottleneck in midfield. Modric has been excluded from the squad after his latest injury, leaving the manager with just four options from the first-team in midfield. Needless to say, all four players are expected to start in Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond formation on the night.
Bellingham will be deployed as the attacking midfielder while Kroos is likely to play as the pivot. The two interiors will be Dani Ceballos and Valverde, the former of whom has not started a single game all season.
The situation in midfield is thus grim, for the manager can not afford any further injuries in the department.
The man in form
The beginning of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 campaign was all about Jude Bellingham. The Englishman could not stop scoring goals for fun across all competitions and single-handedly won games even in situations where all hope seemed lost.
Rodrygo has stolen the limelight from the English protege in recent weeks, and his resurgence could not come at a better time for Ancelotti. After all, the Brazilian was enduring one of his worst-ever starts to a season but managed to find his footing exactly after Bellingham suffered the blow to his shoulder.
The 22-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in Real Madrid’s recent games. His purple patch began against Braga when he scored once and assisted once to give Los Blancos three critical points.
In the team’s subsequent clash against Valencia, Rodrygo stole the show. In 90 minutes against Los Che, the youngster scored two goals and provided as many assists in the team’s 5-1 win. He added another two goals and an assist to his tally in Real Madrid’s most recent clash against Cadiz.
Needless to say, the spotlight will shine brightly on Rodrygo in tomorrow’s game. As the team’s most in-form player, the onus will be on him to find the required breakthroughs on the night and lead the attack from the front in Vinicius Jr.’s absence.