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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Real Betis

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Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images

Only two teams boast a perfect winning record so far in La Liga: Real Madrid and Real Betis. Both teams stand on nine points in the league standings and are first and second in the table respectively.

That could change as La Liga heads into its fourth matchday. Real Madrid and Betis face each other on Saturday at Santiago Bernabeu and either one or both of the teams will certainly lose their perfect start to the season.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side dished out a fine opening-day performance over Elche, scoring three times and maintaining a clean sheet. They then defeated Mallorca by a 2-1 margin before edging a 1-0 win over Osasuna.

Meanwhile, Los Blancos have been going from strength to strength since their Matchday 1 scare against Almeria. In the subsequent games, Carlo Ancelotti’s side scored seven goals and conceded just two.

The clash at the Bernabeu could well be the most awaited game of the weekend. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Los Blancos’ weekend clash.

1. The concerning lack of a clean sheet

Last season, Thibaut Courtois stood second on the list of goalkeepers with the most clean-sheets. Only Alex Remiro of Real Sociedad boasted a better record than the Belgian international who achieved it in 16 league games.

However, that form has not continued to the new season. While Courtois has been magnificent in all three games so far, he has conceded one goal in every game.

Against Almeria, the shot-stopper failed to save Largie Ramazani’s effort in just the sixth minute. Needless to say, the early setback did not help Real Madrid’s case.

Just six minutes after Karim Benzema gave Los Blancos the lead over Celta Vigo, Courtois conceded the equaliser at the other end. A similar situation repeated itself against Espanyol when Joselu scored the equaliser past the Belgian late in the first half, killing Real Madrid’s lead on the night.

Given that the team have failed to maintain a single clean sheet in three games, all eyes undoubtedly turn to the goalkeeper. Yet, one knows that several other factors are involved.

For starters, the defence of the team is equally responsible for the goals conceded. From a broader angle, every player on the field can be held answerable for the same.

On Saturday, Real Madrid will look to put an end to the unwanted streak. Needless to say, it will take a special performance from the defenders and goalkeepers to deny a side like Los Verdiblancos of a goal in ninety minutes.

2. A real test for Aurelien Tchouameni

The world turned upside down for Real Madrid’s new signing Aurelien Tchouameni when Casemiro announced his departure from the club. All of a sudden, the Frenchman was under pressure to perform at the highest level, week in and week out, in a new environment.

With the pressure on his shoulders, he started for Los Blancos against Celta Vigo two weeks ago. At the end of ninety minutes, he was arguably the best player on the field.

On the night, he recorded three key passes, three successful dribbles, four clearances, three interceptions, two tackles, seven duels won and a blocked shot. A week later, he again impressed with his all-round performance against Espanyol. Moreover, he also provided his first assist for the club.

The youngster will look to ride on the wave of momentum ahead of the clash against Betis, for it will not be an easy task by any means.

The Seville-based side have an incredibly reliable double pivot of William Carvalho and Guido Rodriguez who will not be easy customers, although the former is a doubt. Tchouameni will also have to handle the guile and deception of Nabil Fekir who is amongst the most technically gifted playmakers in the league.

3. Tinkering with the full-backs

Carvajal or Vazquez at right-back? (Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Carlo Ancelotti made some surprising decisions ahead of Real Madrid’s game against Espanyol last week. For the game at RCDE Stadium, neither of the first-choice full-backs started.

Dani Carvajal was benched on the night as Lucas Vazquez started at right-back while David Alaba started at left-back ahead of Ferland Mendy.

The results, however, were mixed. Alaba did not have the best of nights defensively, losing possession six times and making an error that directly led to a shot. Vazquez did better in defence but lacked the cutting edge going forward.

Heading into a crucial match, the manager could look to entrust the right-back duty to Carvajal. His experience will come in handy against the likes of Juanmi and Alex Moreno down the flank.

The left-back situation is not as clear. Mendy may be the first-choice starter, but the Frenchman has often struggled to make an impact in the final third. The race to start is open between Alaba and Mendy, and it remains to be seen as to whom Ancelotti trusts.

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Three talking points ahead of Manchester City vs Real Madrid

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Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The big Champions League nights seldom disappoint, and the first-leg quarterfinal results last week in this year’s edition were no different.

The four games cumulatively saw 18 goals scored, none of which were overwhelmingly convincing, thus leaving the ground level ahead of the decisive second legs.

Of the four fixtures that unfolded last week, the clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City was the most entertaining, by far.

An enthralling 3-3 draw saw both Los Blancos and Pep Guardiola’s men pull off mini-comebacks on the night before they eventually split the spoils and left everything to be decided at the Etihad Stadium.

Tomorrow, the two European giants face off again in Manchester in a game that will grant the victor a spot in the semifinal of this season’s Champions League.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Manchester City vs Real Madrid.

New year, new team

As Real Madrid head to the Etihad to take part in the decisive second leg, they invariably confront some horrific memories at the arena.

For starters, the men in white have never beaten Manchester City at the Etihad in an official game. Of the teams’ last three meetings at the venue over the past four years, City have always come out on top at home.

Los Blancos’ most recent recollection of the venue does not help in any way either. After all, they headed to England last season after a draw in the first leg at home, only to be destroyed by a 4-0 margin by Pep Guardiola’s men.

Fast forward one year, the Spanish giants once again failed to secure an advantage in the home fixture. To qualify for the semifinal, they must not only conquer the Etihad’s curse but also get past the ghosts of last year.

A lot has changed in Carlo Ancelotti’s setup since the two sides last met. Karim Benema’s departure, Jude Bellingham’s arrival, and the rise of new stars in goal and defence are just some of the innumerable variations that have grown into the Madrid-based entity.

Ancelotti’s primary goal tomorrow, thus, should be to keep the morale and belief of his men high. It is a new year, a new team, and history plays no part in how the game plays out.

The defensive situation

Rudiger and Nacho likely to start in defence. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)

Ancelotti was faced with a defensive dilemma ahead of Real Madrid’s first leg last week. Of the available options, he opted to go with Aurelien Tchouameni to partner Antonio Rudiger, purely because of the Frenchman’s prowess in aerial duels.

While Tchouameni did do a good job, he is suspended for tomorrow’s clash leaving the Italian coach in a tricky situation in defence.

His Plan B, Eder Militao, is not fit enough to start, and everything indicates that Nacho will be the player to start alongside the German.

Tomorrow’s game at Etihad will be a personal battle for Rudiger, for he was dropped the last time Real Madrid played at the venue and watched his team’s destruction from the sidelines.

Now arriving as the leader of defence, he will make it his objective to prove that Ancelotti’s decision to drop him a year ago was costly. After all, he has efficiently defended against Erling Haaland in all his meetings with the Norwegian.

An equal share of the spotlight will shine on Nacho, whose aerial ability will be tested, and Ferland Mendy, who suffered against Bernardo Silva a week ago.

Clarity in approach

Real Madrid differ from other top European clubs in one primary respect. Unlike the goal of competitors to play a beautiful game, dominate the proceedings and assert authority, Los Blancos purely concern themselves with the result.

Be it ugly or an exquisitely crafted display, the win and qualification are all that Ancelotti aims for. The aforementioned approach has largely pioneered the team’s success over the years.

Heading into tomorrow’s clash, it is thus imperative that Real Madrid have the right idea of what to expect.

It will be close to impossible to dominate proceedings against a well-oiled Pep Guardiola team, nor will it be simple to boast of possession. As such, the Merengues will likely be forced to defend deep for large parts of the game.

What will be critical, however, are the few chances they get on the counter-attack. The likes of Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo Goes, Jude Bellingham and Federico Valverde will be crucial if the team is to hit on the break with efficiency, and their form will account for a large part of the result.

The goal tomorrow, thus, must not be to dominate the game but purely to walk out victors. It might not turn out to be beautiful, but will surely be memorable should it work out.

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