Not many clubs in the world fancy playing Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Performing against an ocean of white in the stands is one of the most numbing feelings a professional footballer can experience, and the pressure often leads to a collapse.
Real Sociedad, however, are one of the few who have an impressive record at the venue. The Basque outfit have lost just one of their last four and two of their last six games at the Bernabeu.
Taking all three points on Sunday is easier said than done for Carlo Ancelotti’s men. But a win would be a real statement of intent towards Real Madrid’s dream of lifting this season’s league title.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid’s clash against Real Sociedad.
Maintaining the momentum
Four games in the new season of La Liga, and Real Madrid remains the only team to have won each of their match, albeit not always convincingly, and sit two points clear of their nearest competitors.
The international break provides players with some much-needed break from the cycle of club football. Yet, it is often immediately after a hiatus that a team head into a purple patch, and Real Madrid must be wary of the same.
At this stage in La Liga, Carlo Ancelotti’s men must hold on to their small lead and look to broaden the gap with their competition. Real Sociedad, on that front, will pose serious problems to the leaders.
Of their past 11 meetings, the Basque side have won four times and split the spoils on three occasions. The record in recent seasons is thus evenly split.
Moreover, Imanol Alguacil’s side won against Real Madrid in their most recent meeting with a dominant 2-0 scoreline with captain Dani Carvajal even seeing a red card during the proceedings.
All eyes will thus be on the hosts to see if they can get past their recent nemesis on Sunday. After all, the momentum could not be more on their side.
One key return
Earlier this week, reports surfaced that Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos had returned to training. However, there was still a cloud of doubt over his participation at the weekend.
Carlo Ancelotti confirmed in his pre-game press conference that the Spaniard was indeed ready for selection and had received the medical all-clear. However, Ferland Mendy is yet to make a comeback.
“Ceballos will be [available] against Real [Sociedad], but Mendy will not. He has to continue with his plan. We have to get him in when he is 100% ready and I think he will be in the squad on Wednesday,” Ancelotti said.
With Ceballos back on the roster, Ancelotti finally has all seven midfielders available at his disposal for the first time this season. After all, the 27-year-old was injured even prior to the preseason tour.
His dilemma now will be the manner in which he is to rotate the available stars. With Jude Bellingham and Aurelien Tchouameni almost assured starters, he must find roles for Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Ceballos, Brahim Diaz, and Federico Valverde.
The Spaniard’s recovery thus brings a good problem to the manager’s doorstep.
The English X-factor
Truth be told, Los Blancos have been far from their convincing selves so far this season. Yet, they have found ways to win purely through their grit and never-say-die attitude.
The men in white went a goal down early against Almeria and were forced to make a comeback at the Power Horse Stadium on Matchday 2.
Against Celta Vigo one week later, they were at a stalemate ten minutes from time when Jude Bellingham scored a peach to secure the win.
The story was not much more comfortable against Getafe in their most recent outing. Real Madrid were tied at 1-1 even at the 90-minute mark on the night when Bellingham netted a last-minute winner for his side.
The team’s wins have thus quite clearly depended on individual brilliance from their new signing who now has five goals and an assist in four appearances. However, relying on his magical boots is not a sustainable way forward.
On Sunday, Los Blancos must thus look to put up a comprehensive show and script a convincing win against the Basque side. Not only will it serve as a statement of quality to the world but will also come as a confidence booster to the dressing room.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Las Palmas | La Liga
The heartbreak at Civitas Metropolitano saw Real Madrid drop down to third on the La Liga standings for the first time this season. They now sit on 15 points from six games, only one point behind leaders Barcelona.
Yet, there is barely time for the team to recover. Less than 72 hours after their defeat, the Merengues play host to Las Palmas in the seventh Matchday of La Liga in a tricky fixture.
Garcia Pimienta’s side have improved leaps and bounds in recent times, although their start to the new season has been far from positive.
Las Palmas were winless in their first five league games but picked up a first win in their most recent outing against Granada.
With the visitors coming off their first win and the hosts their first loss, it will be interesting to see how the game of momentum plays out.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Wednesday’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu.
The important reaction
Having secured six wins in six games under their belt, the threat of breaking the moment was always lurking around the corner from Real Madrid. After all, their wins to that point were not always convincing.
Jude Bellingham’s magic, Joselu’s constant threat and the talented midfield helped Los Blancos on their way to scrappy wins over the weeks. Yet, it was always glaringly clear that they had deficiencies in defence and the final third.
All of Real Madrid’s troubles came to the forefront on Sunday and were left glaringly exposed. The end result was a defeat that left a bitter taste in the mouths of players and fans.
Despite facing their first setback of the season, however, the men in white have no time to lament. After all, the hectic schedule leaves them little time between games.
It is thus of utmost importance that Real Madrid does not slip into a vicious state of negative momentum. As they face off against Las Palmas midweek, Carlo Ancelotti’s side needs a strong and dominant win to keep spirits high.
Considering that they will be back at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid will be the favourites by far on the night. Nevertheless, there will be pressure on the players to take all three points.
Limelight on the manager
The aftermath of the defeat to Atletico Madrid sent ripples through the Spanish media. It was reported that the Real Madrid board was not entirely happy with the list of ‘sins’ committed by Ancelotti in the clash at Civitas Metropolitano.
It thus goes without saying that the limelight will be on the manager on Wednesday.
For starters, the Italian gaffer must get the starting lineup right and not go overboard with his rotations. Aurelien Tchouameni is a must for the Merengues’ defensive efforts and must be introduced back into the lineup midweek.
Moreover, there will be pressure on him to revert to the winning 4-4-2 diamond formation featuring two natural forwards including a striker.
With Joselu returning to the lineup, Jude Bellingham must shift back to his more comfortable attacking midfield role.
Moreover, the manager must strike the right balance between youth and experience, for both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric can no longer start together.
Perhaps the most important job Ancelotti is faced with, however, is in defence. Both David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger appeared lost in the last game, and it remains to be seen if the manager ropes Nacho Fernandez in to strike a better dynamic.
Return of the magician
While Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao are amongst Real Madrid’s most valuable players, it is Vinicius Jr’s injury that hit the club the hardest.
The Merengues unfortunately have a very thin and fragile forward line this season with just three players competing for two spots. Of the three names, Vinicius is the single most important one.
The Brazilian star may not have started the 2023-24 season at his optimal level considering his altered role in the new formation. Yet, he is the Merengues’ most lethal weapon to break open defences and create chances.
The men in white have had problems since the Selecao star hobbled off the field injured against Celta Vigo.
Their games against Getafe and Union Berlin were both down to last-gasp winners, while the defeat to Atletico Madrid showed everything wrong with the team.
Vinicius Jr is set to make his return in tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu, and there could be no better news for Ancelotti.