Four games into the season and Real Madrid are the only perfect side in La Liga. It does not require much more to understand the explosive start Carlo Ancelotti’s side have enjoyed this term.
The men in white thrashed Celtic midweek and started their UCL title defence with a bang. They return to the Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow to face off against the league’s 12th-placed side, RCD Mallorca.
Javier Aguirre’s men currently sit on five points and have won only one of their four games. Of their other three fixtures, they drew two and lost one.
With another UCL clash in less than a week’s time, Los Blancos cannot afford to lose their momentum. A win on Sunday would not only keep them high in spirits but also safeguard their lead over Barcelona.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Sunday’s early kick-off.
1. How will Vinicius carry on without Benzema
The best teams, indeed, do not rely on individual brilliance to win games. However, there is always that one player who provides something extra and makes a difference regularly.
For Real Madrid, that player is Karim Benzema. If one were to go back to last season’s records, they would find that Los Blancos’ worst periods of the term coincided with the Frenchman’s absence. Even in the preseason, Carlo Ancelotti’s side lost their only game without Benzema.
The striker’s role at Real Madrid goes far beyond just scoring goals. His involvement in pressing the opposition, in the buildup and as a captain on the field is invaluable.
Benzema seemed to be picking up after a slow start to the season, but the joy was short-lived as he was forced off with a knee injury against Celtic. Reports suggest that the veteran will face around two weeks on the sidelines and will miss tomorrow’s clash in the process.
The focus lights will now shine brighter on the team’s next most potent attacker- Vinicius Jr. The Brazilian’s game has levelled up significantly over the past year and has become a terror for opposition defences.
In just four La Liga games so far, he has scored three goals and provided one assist. Moreover, he opened his season’s tally in the UEFA Champions League against Celtic. With all eyes on him on Sunday, the youngster will look to show that he can lead Real Madrid’s attack on his own.
2. A new role for Eden Hazard
Karim Benzema’s unavailability opens up a starting spot in Carlo Ancelotti’s lineup against Mallorca. The manager confirmed in his press conference that Eden Hazard would take that place and added that he would play as a false nine.
Not only is this a change for the Belgian star’s role but also for the team’s overall formation. The new setup will see two strikers in Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo, supported from the halfspaces by Eden Hazard.
Such a formation will reduce the width of the team in attack as it sees no direct wingers in action. The Belgian International will thus be crucial on the night as the creative core of the team.
It will be the first time Hazard is starting a game for Real Madrid in 231 days, and he will look to make the most of his chance. The 31-year-old has endured a difficult time since his arrival from Chelsea, and this could well be his final shot at making it big at the club of his dreams.
3. Antonio Rudiger’s window of opportunity
When the news of Antonio Rudiger’s transfer arrived to Spain, it seemed clear that the German would be a regular starter for Real Madrid. It was thought that he would replace David Alaba in central defence, with the Austrian international moving to left-back.
However, the reality was far different from the expectation. Rudiger’s first few weeks at the club have been difficult, and he has started just two of Los Blancos’ six games so far. In his 200 minutes so far in La Liga, the German has averaged less than four defensive actions per game.
The manager has stuck with his tried and tested combination of Alaba and Militao so far, and continues to persist with Ferland Mendy as the left-back. For that to change, the 29-year-old will have to prove his worth to Ancelotti.
Luckily for him, that chance comes as early as Sunday. Militao’s thigh injury has ruled him out of action for at least the next two games, and Rudiger is best placed to replace the Brazilian defender. He will start against Mallorca alongside Alaba and will look to stitch up a special performance.
Real Madrid 1-0 Sevilla: Player Ratings
Following Barcelona’s convincing 4-0 win against Getafe yesterday, the onus was on Real Madrid to reinstate the eight-point gap between the sides as they hosted Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu today.
Lucas Vazquez opened the scoring for los blancos after ten minutes, but the goal was controversially disallowed for a foul on Youssef En-Nesyri in the build-up.
Madrid found it difficult to unlock Sevilla’s defence after that, with the first-half ending 0-0 after just one shot on target from both teams combined.
Madrid started the second 45 with more intent, creating some better scoring opportunities, but were left without success until an unbelievable effort from Luka Modric scathed the post and went in.
Sergio Ramos put in a wonderful performance on his return to the Santiago Bernabeu for Sevilla, but it was not enough as Madrid escaped with all three points and an eight-point lead on top of the table.
Andriy Lunin: 8
Was not called into action in the first-half, and was pretty much faultless in possession. But made an incredible save off Romero’s effort in the second half and was extremely proactive collecting crosses, too. Game-changing.
Lucas Vazquez: 7
Did a good job overlapping and was unlucky that his goal was disallowed. Did well to deal with Romero and Ocampos defensively.
Antonio Rudiger: 6.5
Rudiger was lucky that Romero and En-Nesyri did not convert their efforts from close range, as he often left space in behind. Went up to attack with the score at 0-0, too, but came back fruitless.
Was substituted off after 75 minutes after an mostly average display. Again, lucky that he was not punished for the space he left behind.
Ferland Mendy: 7
A few decent moves for Mendy today, but for the most part, his inability to overlap properly gave Vinicius too much to do.
Federico Valverde: 8
By far the most active midfielder today, Valverde was everywhere. Ran the show for Madrid, both in possession and stopping counter attacks before they even started. Missed the easiest chance of the game, though.
Aurelien Tchouameni: 6.5
Did his job as the 6 well, kept the game ticking and kept finding the spare man in midfield. Moved back to the defence eventually, and came away with a clean sheet.
Toni Kroos: 7
With Madrid struggling to break through Sevilla’s defence, Kroos was tasked with a lot of deep progression. Created some tame chances here and there, but failed to find properly find a man through.
Brahim Diaz: 7.5
Kept Kike Salas and Ocampos on their toes, making some tremendous solo runs from deep, but was often left without support. Created a brilliant chance for Valverde, that was scuffed.
Did not take many risks in possesion, but was crucial in Vinicius and Brahim finding space on the wing by offering support.
Vinicius Jr: 7.5
With the Sevilla defence looking very organised, the onus was on Vinicius to create something out of nothing. He attempted a few different things, including flicking the ball over players and attempting shots from distance, but all unsuccessful.
Has to be credited for the effort, though, especially with the rest of the team lacking.
Luka Modric: 8.5
Super-sub Luka Modric coming in clutch for Madrid today with his wonder goal from outside the box. Was also brilliant in possession, increasing the tempo of the game.