Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad
The second and third-placed teams in La Liga clash off against each other on Sunday as Real Madrid take on Real Sociedad in a game that could have massive implications on the title race. After all, both teams have not only a reason to fight for three points but also an equal chance of winning.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men can no longer afford to sleep on the situation in La Liga. Barcelona now have a six-point lead over them after their win over Girona on Saturday, and dropping points is no longer an option.
The game will be held at Santiago Bernabeu and the home advantage could play a big part in the result. However, one must remember that the Basque side tormented league leaders Barcelona at Spotify Camp Nou less than a week ago despite being a man down.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad.
1. First-half blues
Ancelotti singled out one flaw of his Real Madrid side after their comeback win over Atletico Madrid. As he rightly pointed out, his side consistently struggled in the first half in recent games but managed out-of-the-world second-half displays to pull them through.
The trend began in Los Blancos’ win over Villarreal in the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey. The men in white played out a disastrous first half and were two goals down before turning up in the second period and sparking a comeback.
A similar story unfolded in the last game against Atletico Madrid. With 20 minutes to go, Ancelotti’s side were a goal down and on their way out of the cup. It was again at that late moment that they sparked a good spell of play to turn around the tie and get the better of their neighbours.
While the situation does speak volumes about the confidence of Real Madrid, one must remember that there is a fine line between confidence and overconfidence.
At the moment, the team are edging ever so close to crossing that line. The trend of struggling in the first half repeatedly is not healthy for a team of their stature, and Ancelotti must ensure that the change is brought as early as Sunday’s game.
2. Rewarding the heroes
When Los Blancos desperately needed a spark against Atletico Madrid to start a comeback, two individuals who came off the bench took charge.
Dani Ceballos and Rodrygo were arguably the Merengues’ most decisive players in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals and were directly involved in lifting their side out of the trough.
The midfielder came on towards the end of the first half and took over the reins of Real Madrid’s midfield. In just 76 minutes, he recorded 121 touches, close to 100 passes and made four key passes. Further, he had one assist and close to 13 defensive actions to his name.
Rodrygo, on the other hand, was the one who conjured a goal out of nothing to nullify Atletico’s lead. In his 45 minutes, he managed two shots, two dribbles and two key passes in addition to one goal.
Ancelotti has always been a man of no favourites and practical approaches. The Italian tactician could thus find it appealing to give continuity to those in form and reward them with a start when Real Madrid take on Real Sociedad.
3. An opposition with highs and struggles
Real Sociedad are one of Spain’s most in-form teams right now and their results show their quality and consistency.
The Basque side are placed third on the La Liga standings and are just three points behind Ancelotti’s side, albeit the Merengues have a game in hand.
With 38 points in 18 games so far they sit seven points clear of fourth-placed Atletico Madrid and are well-placed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. So far, they have won 12 league games and lost just four.
The Merengues have won their last two games against Sociedad. Yet, they have won just one of their last three games against the Basque side at Santiago Bernabeu.
Clearly, the game on Sunday night will be an epic tussle between two fighting sides. A win for Real Madrid would maintain the three-point gap with Barcelona while a win for Imanol Alguacil’s side would see them level up on points with Ancelotti’s men.
The visitors may have their set of positives to gloat on, however, that does not mask the fact that they are in deep trouble for Sunday’s match.
Sociedad travel to the Bernabeu with no full-backs available and just two centre-backs fit. A long casualty list means that Alguacil will not have several key players for the clash against the defending champions, a factor that gives Real Madrid the edge.
Three talking points from Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | La Liga
Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid fell to a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona on their first trip to Spotify Camp Nou after more than a year.
The Catalans had not won against the Merengues at home since 2018 ahead of the game but a clutch goal from Franck Kessie helped them turn around the record.
Vinicius Jr opened the scoring early in the game by forcing an error and own goal from Ronald Araujo. The hosts levelled the score in the 45th minute through Sergi Roberto, before the winner arrived in stoppage time.
The game was not without its share of controversy as Real Madrid had a goal disallowed for offside that Ancelotti felt was unfair. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from the fourth Clasico of the season.
1. Quality of full-backs
Real Madrid have etched their names into history as one of the most deadly counter-attacking teams in world football. Their pacey transitions and shifts of play have traditionally progressed through the wing with unreal speed to catch the opponent off-guard even in a momentary lapse in concentration.
Needless to say, the full-backs have always worked in tandem with the team’s wingers to make such speedy counters possible. The glaring problem at Real Madrid currently is that their full-backs do not provide half as much as they need to.
Los Blancos’ counterattack now seemingly consists of only Vinicius Jr on the left wing making a quick transition to find Karim Benzema. With just one outlet, it is difficult for the men in white to be effective.
The story at Spotify Camp Nou was very similar. Dani Carvajal started as the right-back and had a good showing defensively. Yet, he was virtually absent in the final third and left Real Madrid’s right-wing lifeless. In ninety minutes, he managed no crosses or long balls and had just one key pass.
The story at left-back was equally, if not more abysmal. Nacho Fernandez was the candidate deployed in the position and could also not manage a single cross, long ball or key pass on the night. He was eventually substituted for Ferland Mendy but the Frenchman could not do much either.
The difference in the quality of full-backs between Barcelona and Ancelotti’s side is gaping. The Catalans blazed through the wings on the night with Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde who constantly got forward in attack to stretch the men in white. In response, Real Madrid had nothing.
2. A dead right-wing and lack of intensity
It is imperative for any top football team to have the resources to attack both wings, for it is the constant switching of play that triggers errors from the opposition. For a club like Real Madrid to not have such resources is criminal.
The game against Barcelona was completely predictable given that the Merengues’ right wing was nonexistent. Any attack, almost surely, had to come down Vinicius’ wing and this made Barcelona’s defensive work easier.
Dani Carvajal was barely involved in the final third against the Catalans. That, coupled with Federico Valverde’s atrocious showing as the right-winger removed one side of the field from Real Madrid’s game.
Valverde made just 27 passes in 76 minutes and failed to make a single cross on the night. Further, he recorded just one key pass and one accurate long ball in El Clasico.
When Marco Asensio came on for Los Blancos, the equation completely turned around. The winger came on as a direct replacement for Valverde and happened to score the disallowed goal that was millimetres from giving Real Madrid three points.
More importantly, the move for the aforementioned goal was completely down the right flank, a testament to the alarming situation.
3. Goodbye La Liga?
When the clock at Spotify Camp Nou struck 81 minutes, the race for La Liga seemed to be on. Real Madrid had just scored a possible winner and had cut short their deficit with Barcelona to just six points.
Ten minutes later, the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of the hosts. Their lead atop the league standings was suddenly twelve points with just 12 games to go.
History is witness that counting out Real Madrid does not fare well. However, it is difficult to surpass the supposition that the 12-point gap is too wide to bridge.
Los Blancos will continue to fight in the league, but Ancelotti will likely preserve his weapons for the UEFA Champions League where they face a bigger chance at glory.