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.
Three talking points from Real Madrid 1-0 Union Berlin
Real Madrid kicked off their UEFA Champions League campaign on Wednesday night with a narrow 1-0 win over Union Berlin.
The victory was deserved from the point of view of domination of play. Real Madrid were the only team attacking for large parts of the night and created chances to no end.
Yet, one must tip the hat to the visitors’ resilient defence. Playing the first UEFA Champions League clash in the club’s history is difficult enough, let alone at the Santiago Bernabeu. Union Berlin did so and with some style.
Until the 93rd minute, a draw appeared to be the most probable result. The visitors refused to cave into Real Madrid’s relentless attacks and poured their hearts out on the field.
In the end, however, Carlo Ancelotti’s men did what they do best. A last-minute winner from Jude Bellingham gave the hosts all three points.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid 1-0 Union Berlin.
The power of Real Madrid
Real Madrid are one of the few teams in the world that can never be written off. Such is the ability of the team, more so under Carlo Ancelotti, that they can pull off a win even after a howler.
Their unfair advantage, in part, owes itself to the ridiculous individual quality they possess on the field. Any player is capable of turning the game around with a moment of magic.
Yet, the most important factor that works in their favour is the mental resilience in the squad. Real Madrid never believe it is over until it really is, and Wednesday night’s game provided further reassurance as to why they are the mentality monsters.
For 90 minutes, the visitors frustrated Real Madrid to the limit. They stuck to their defensive lines with discipline and did not give Los Blancos much to work with.
Yet, Real Madrid’s perseverance was visible through the ordeal. The intensity of their attacks amplified with every passing minute and showed no signs of tapering down.
Poetically, they found the winning goal in the final minute of added time when all doors seemed closed, with Jude Bellingham being the hero yet again.
Forwards need to step up
The men in white had 75% of the possession on Wednesday night at Santiago Bernabeu and kept making the required penetrative attacks.
In 90 minutes, the hosts racked up an xG tally of 3.80. Yet, shockingly, they were goalless even in the penultimate minute of the game.
Real Madrid took 32 shots against Union Berlin as opposed to the opposition’s four. Seven shots were on target while 10 were blocked.
In terms of big chances, the me in white churned up five in the 90 minutes of which they missed four. They also struck the woodwork twice last night.
The team’s struggles in the final third place the spotlight on Rodrygo Goes and Joselu, who were the team’s two forwards at Santiago Bernabeu. Both players suffered disappointing nights in front of goal and just could not catch a break from their poor luck.
The Spaniard had three shots on target, five off it, and three attempts blocked against Union Berlin. All of it, however, was in vain.
The Brazilian was not much better with three shots and one blocked chance. Nevertheless, their poor results were not for a lack of trying if that is any silver lining.
Far from convincing
Real Madrid’s mentality and fortitude to push for a win is indeed a reason to be optimistic. However, that does not hide the fact that the men in white struggled and toiled on to no end.
The Champions League has no minnows, but one would expect Real Madrid to show their dominance at some point in the game and close the deal. However, that spell of play never arrived.
Los Blancos may be on a six-game winning streak so far this season, but there is reason to believe that a factor of luck has been essential for most of their scalps.
All eyes will thus be on Ancelotti now. The manager has a world-class roster at his disposal, and it will now be up to him to enhance Real Madrid’s performance in the final third. After all, putting away chances is as important as creating them.