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 ahead of Real Madrid vs Osasuna
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.