After a gap of seven days, Real Madrid returned to action on Sunday night. The rest is well deserved for the men in white, for they returned home with three precious points in El Clasico last weekend.
The La Liga title race is wide open eleven match days into the season. Four clubs sit in contention, with just four points separating them. Consistency, at this point, is critical.
Come Sunday, Los Blancos face a tricky opposition in Rayo Vallecano. Francisco Rodriguez’s men are currently seventh in La Liga with four wins in eleven games. Notably, however, they are unbeaten in their last nine games across all competitions.
The Merengues are the favourites to walk away with three points, but with new variables now in the picture, the story is not as clear.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Rayo Vallecano at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Keeping the steam
The mood in Madrid has never been better all season. After all, Real Madrid sit on the top of the table both in La Liga and their UEFA Champions League group and are coming off perhaps their biggest win of the season.
Last weekend, Los Blancos travelled to Catalonia to take on Barcelona in El Clasico. The first half did not pan out according to Carlo Ancelotti’s plans, with the men in white going down a goal early.
What unfolded in the second half was ruthless. The game remained balanced between the two arch-rivals, but the Merengues took their chances with unreal precision. In the end, two Jude Bellingham goals sealed the win for Real Madrid.
Real Madrid are thus unbeaten in their last seven games across all competitions, winning six of them. Further, they boast a four-point lead over Barcelona and are only tied with Girona at the top.
Heading into tomorrow’s clash against Rayo Vallecano, the team must ride on the high. The momentum is on their side, and a win could potentially take them to the sole leader position.
Two fresh blows
Real Madrid suffered two injuries in quick succession during El Clasico, both of the players who started on the afternoon.
The first player was Ferland Mendy. The French defender was seen limping immediately after half-time and was substituted off for Eduardo Camavinga in the 48th minute.
Mendy made his return to group training earlier today, but is not yet at full fitness, and as such he will be sitting out against Rayo Vallecano, although Ancelotti did hint that he could be ready for the SC Braga clash.
The second, and perhaps more worrying blow, was suffered by Aurelien Tchouameni. The midfield star suffered a foot fracture and is likely to be sidelined for at least two months through the same.
Tchouameni was perhaps the single most important factor in Real Madrid’s midfield dominance this season, and his injury comes as a big blow.
With the Frenchman injured, his compatriot Eduardo Camavinga is expected to take his place in the coming games. The 20-year-old has proven his value at the base of the midfield multiple times. Against Rayo Vallecano, he will be on defensive midfield duty once more.
Pressure on the former Rayo Vallecano star
Carlo Ancelotti’s team does not have many cracks on the field, but the left-back position would be one of the more worrying departments if forced to choose.
In Ferland Mendy, Eduardo Camavinga, and Fran Garcia, the manager has enjoyed the liberty to choose from three players so far this season. However, the circumstances are no longer the same.
Mendy is out of contention for a starting spot, while Camavinga will almost certainly play the coming clashes as the defensive midfielder.
Ancelotti is thus left with Garcia as his only left-back option ahead of tomorrow’s clash. The storyline is poetic when one considers that Garcia rose to prominence and caught Real Madrid’s eye once again playing with Rayo Vallecano, the Merengues’ opposition on the night.
As the team’s only viable left-back option, the spotlight will be on Garcia to step up and prove his worth to the management.
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.