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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Rayo Vallecano

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Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

There is a lot going on in Madrid off the field, with reports, accusations and punishments flying all over the city. Yet, the football must go on and Real Madrid must take to the field again tonight.

The clash at the Santiago Bernabeu will see them pitted against Rayo Vallecano, one of the very few teams who have beaten Real Madrid already once this season.

Andoni Iraola’s men registered a famous 3-2 win over Los Blancos in November courtesy of goals from Santi Comesana, Alvaro Garcia, and Oscar Trejo. This time, however, it is Real Madrid who boast the home advantage as they look to bounce back strong from two consecutive defeats.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid vs Rayo Vallecano.

1. Times of turmoil

It is safe to say that Real Madrid and Spain have seen better days. If the events of the past two days are anything to go by, there is a lot about the world of football that needs to change, more so in La Liga.

The entire debacle of racism against Vinicius Jr had become a constant occurrence throughout the club’s 2022/23 campaign. Atletico Madrid, Valladolid and Mallorca were just a few of the stadiums in which the youngster had been subjected to racial slurs up until last weekend.

Yet, what unfolded at the Mestalla on Sunday night was outrageous beyond proportion. The attacks on the youngster were no longer made from the crypts of the stands but done with no sense of shame or repercussion.

The insulting gestures, chants and slur has been caught on camera and has prompted an immediate response from both Valencia and various law enforcement bodies. Yet, the very fact that the league has stooped to such a low is unacceptable.

Wednesday will bring Real Madrid’s first home game after the recent episode and it will only be just if the fans in the stadium come out in support of Vinicius Jr and call as a collective for stringent measures against racism. After all, the winger is said to be affected by events and could do with all the support he can get.

2. A Tale of eight games

Under pressure to turn things around. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

The statistic surrounding Real Madrid’s past eight games has surprisingly gone under the radar. After all, it has not happened many times in the club’s recent history that they have seen a record as poor as the one they are currently scripting.

Of their last eight games across all competitions, Los Blancos have won just three times. Unbelievably, they have more losses in the aforementioned period and have returned empty-handed on four of the nine occasions.

The freefall has not been without consequences. Poor form has cost the team dearly in the form of European elimination and a compromised position on the league standings. Real Madrid currently sit in third place on the table, behind Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

The Merengues‘ season may be over, but losing with the club’s crest is not acceptable under any circumstances. Coming off such a poor run of form, the pressure will be on Carlo Ancelotti and the veterans of the team to stabilise the ship and navigate it to a strong finish. That mission must begin against Rayo Vallecano tonight.

3. Asensio’s golden chance

Vinicius Jr was the victim on Sunday night and the whole world is testament to the same. However, his night only went from bad to worse in the penultimate minute of the game when he was sent off against Valencia.

A shocking report revealed that the VAR official on the night sent biased images to the on-field referee, prompting a red card to Vinicius while Hugo Duro walked unscathed. The VAR official has been suspended, and the Brazilian’s red card has also been rescinded. But he remains a doubt for the game due to a minor knee injury.

Marco Asensio is best placed to replace the winger in the starting lineup on Wednesday. The Spaniard will likely start in combination with Karim Benzema and Rodrygo Goes and must consider it one of his final chances to prove his worth to the manager this season.

Asensio’s consistent performances all season have practically assured him of a renewal at the club. The deal has not yet been signed, but all the signs are optimistic. Yet, the winger yearns to be a regular starter for the Merengues and Wednesday could be his chance to prove to Ancelotti his ability as a starter.

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Three questions and three answers from Mallorca 0-1 Real Madrid

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Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid scraped past Mallorca to secure three points on Saturday at Son Moix in what was a hard-fought game from start to finish.

Despite fielding a rotated squad, Los Blancos boasted of the momentum for large parts of the game and should have extended their lead to two or three goals with ease.

In the end, however, only a spectacular strike from Aurelien Tchouameni separated the two teams and Real Madrid maintained their lead in La Liga for the business end of the season.

More importantly, the Merengues retain the momentum on their side ahead of a do-or-die clash against Pep Guardiola’s men.

Madrid Universal brings you three questions and three answers from Mallorca 0-1 Real Madrid.

Three Answers

Ancelotti was not afraid of rotations

If Carlo Ancelotti’s pre-game press conference was anything to go by, it did not appear likely that the manager would look to make big changes for the clash against Mallorca. After all, he described it as a final and spoke at length about the importance of a win at Son Moix.

As it turns out, Ancelotti did not hesitate to shuffle his deck for the league game ahead of the second leg against Manchester City. In fact, almost his entire lineup on the night featured rotations.

Nacho Fernandez came into the lineup to partner with Antonio Rudiger at centre-back. While Mendy continued as a starter, Dani Carvajal was given a day off with Lucas Vazquez taking his place.

Aurelien Tchouameni unsurprisingly started on the night given his impending suspension for the Manchester City clash, but Toni Kroos was replaced by Luka Modric in midfield. Jude Bellingham and Federico Valverde, meanwhile, kept their places in the lineup.

Both Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo were rested in attack, and the coach deployed Joselu and Brahim Diaz in their place.

Fringe players can impress too

While none of the players who played from the opening whistle last night can be aptly called ‘fringe’, it was always an interesting opportunity to see how the backup players utilised their chance to shine.

Defensively, Nacho and Vazquez were solid as they not only held the fort with resilience but also contributed efficiently in terms of distribution and pushing forward.

Some changes worked, some did not. (Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Luka Modric was also sensational on the evening, and rightly earned a standing ovation from Son Moix in what could be his final appearance at the venue. The Croatian star recorded three key passes created one big chance and clocked over 110 passes on the night.

Brahim and Joselu, however, were not close to as influential as one would have hoped. The duo grew into the game late in the second half, but Diaz was underwhelming in the buildup and missed a golden chance to score while the striker was abysmal in the box.

Real Madrid will head into El Clasico with their lead intact

Real Madrid’s next clash in La Liga is against arch-rivals and second-placed team Barcelona in what will be a massive game from the title race perspective.

Los Blancos had an eight-point cushion ahead of kickoff, but with the Clasico ahead, all focus was on extending the same to eleven provisionally.

After all, a slip-up against Mallorca would potentially reduce the team’s lead to five points and give Barcelona a chance to cut it to two points next weekend.

As it stands, however, Real Madrid got the job done against Javier Aguirre’s men and head into Clasico with their dominant eight-point lead intact. Needless to say, it comes as a relief ahead of a daunting clash.

Three Questions

How much will Los Blancos miss Aurelien Tchouameni midweek?

Having failed to secure an advantage in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid have everything to fight for at the Etihad Stadium midweek.

To come out on top at the opposition’s fortress will be far from easy, more so when one considers that Los Blancos will be without Aurelien Tchouameni on the night.

The Frenchman’s early booking against Pep Guardiola’s side saw him guarantee his absence for the decisive reverse fixture. Considering that he was the manager’s top choice to partner Antonio Rudiger in defence, his absence brings Ancelotti a dilemma.

Tchouameni’s masterclass against Mallorca which not only included a stunning winner but also showcased his mastery in possession, calm defensive presence and expert distribution does not help the manager’s cause.

Real Madrid have not lost a single game this season when the Frenchman has started, and their only two losses of the season came when he was unavailable as a starter. Needless to say, Ancelotti has a big void to fill in the team come Wednesday.

Should Real Madrid be worried over Jude Bellingham?

Jude Bellingham’s performance against Manchester City was not half as bad as propagated by the media. Yet, the player has only himself to blame for the same for he set the bar very high with his phenomenal start to the season.

Not firing on all cylinders. (Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Last night, the English phenom started once more for Los Blancos and dished out another decent performance. However, there is a feeling that he is missing the presence in the box that he had in the first half of the season.

Ahead of what is their biggest game of the season, Ancelotti would have hoped for his star man to deliver a statement performance.

His inability to hit the same peaks, however, could become a headache for the coach, especially with quality options like Brahim Diaz also vying for a spot in the lineup.

Is Eder Militao really ready?

There is a significant discussion going around in Madrid over Ancelotti’s backing of Eder Militao to start against Manchester City midweek. In fact, the manager did not deny the possibility of speaking in a recent press conference.

The equation, in that sense, does not add up, for Militao does not appear to be fit enough to start in a game of such proportions. Last night against Mallorca as well, Ancelotti brought the Brazilian on in stoppage time, and there is no possible way he will start the team’s next game.

Heading into the clash against Manchester City, Ancelotti’s best hope, thus, would be to rely on Nacho in defence. Any claim of using Militao in the position would appear to be nothing but mere games of the mind.

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