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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Real Valladolid

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Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid take on Real Valladolid on Sunday as they return to La Liga action for the first time since the El Clasico defeat. The game at the Santiago Bernabeu will be crucial as a defeat for Real Madrid at this stage could seal the league title for their arch-rivals.

Their opponents on the day, Valladolid, sit in 15th place in La Liga with 28 points from 26 games. They have won only eight games so far in the league, losing 14 in the process.

There are this several key points to consider before the Merengues’ game at the weekend and the restart of club football. Madrid Universal brings you three such points.

1. Left-back issues persist

It was in Real Madrid’s 3-1 win over Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey that Ferland Mendy hobbled off injured. The Frenchman was out of action for close to two months from the last week of January, leaving Carlo Ancelotti without a natural backup.

The manager thus attempted to bridge the gap with the likes of Nacho Fernandez and Eduardo Camavinga, given that David Alaba was simultaneously experiencing fitness troubles of his own.

The makeshift left-backs did a reasonable job but were far from perfect. Time and time again, it became clear that oppositions were targetting the Merengues at their Achilles heel.

In Real Madrid’s clash against Barcelona in La Liga, Mendy made a return, coming on late in the second half in an effort to push for a winner. The impact of his arrival was evident, for there was a sudden awakening on the left flank in the final phase of the game.

Just when it seemed like he was set for a complete return, Mendy suffered an unfortunate setback once again. A blow to his left soleus muscle sees him out of action for another month at least, piling up the problems for Ancelotti.

It could thus be David Alaba who starts at left-back when Los Blancos play Real Valladolid, given that Nacho is suspended. Up against the tricky teenager Ivan Fresneda, the Austrian, who is returning from an injury, could face a tricky challenge.

Out injured again (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

2. Time is money

The international break is the biggest bane in club football because of the sheer disruption in the rhythm that it brings about.

The chemistry between the players is one of the most critical elements in professional football. That, however, only comes with repeated matches played with the same team with no breaks. For the players to switch setup to a whole different team for a matter of two weeks has historically proven detrimental to the club’s chemistry on the field.

Real Madrid did not end their last phase on a good note. However, the team played good football even in the Clasico defeat and had just beaten Liverpool before that.

For Los Blancos to live on in all competitions, it is crucial that they pick up where they left off before the international break in terms of quality. Heading into the first game of the restart, all eyes will be on the team’s chemistry.

Ancelotti’s men do not have a lot of time. They play three must-win games against quality opposition within a month – two UCL games against Chelsea and the cup semifinal against Barcelona. Thus, they cannot afford to waste much time regaining their lost understanding on the field. Time, after all, is money.

3. To compete or not to compete: That is the question

Owing to the defeat to Barcelona in the last matchday and the Catalans’ win over Elche on Saturday, Real Madrid sit 15 points behind league leaders Barcelona. There remain only 12 games in the league this season and a comeback for the men in white seems improbable.

Real Madrid thus face an important crossroad. One option for the club would be to forfeit the league mentally and utilise the remaining games to rotate important players and focus on UEFA Champions League and Spanish Cup. After all, they are the events where the team stands a higher chance of glory.

On the contrary would be the choice of giving all attractions the same importance. In such a situation, it would be difficult for the team to manage given the right schedule. Will Ancelotti’s men choose to sacrifice La Liga for the other competitions? Or will be a fight on all fronts? Only time will tell.

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Features

Five players who will be fixed starters for Real Madrid next season

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Following a successful campaign, Real Madrid are poised for significant changes in their roster due to a combination of player arrivals and departures.

The responsibility of blending new faces with established stars will fall to coach Carlo Ancelotti and his staff as they aim to maintain the club’s competitive edge domestically and in Europe.

And to predict the team’s probable strategy and performance amidst these changes, it is imperative to identify the key players who will be constant starters.

Kylian Mbappe

The new talisman. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

With Real Madrid no longer viewing Mbappe through rose-tinted lenses and finally being able to dress him in the royal white jersey, the Frenchman is expected to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Owing to his instinctive nature to find the back of the net, he is poised to be paired alongside Vinicius Jr. in attack.

Last season, the 2018 World Cup winner scored a whopping 44 goals in all competitions. Thus Real Madrid will be banking heavily on Mbappe’s ability to ask questions of opposition defenders in the final third.

It is being said that Mbappe is all set to wear the iconic number 9 jersey at Real Madrid, which is indicative of the role he will play, as a focal striker.

Vinicius Jr.

The main man at Real Madrid. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Brazilian is in pole position to win the Ballon d’Or this year, and looking back on his season with Real Madrid, it is easy to see why.

Despite losing Karim Benzema, his usual partner in crime over the past few years, Vinicius performed remarkably well in Ancelotti’s new system.

Relentlessly taking on defenders, arriving into space, scoring goals, and stepping up in the biggest of moments, he was one of Real Madrid’s major lynchpins throughout the season as they lifted a historic double.

Vinicius impressively racked up 24 goals last season, and given his importance to the team, the likelihood of him not maintaining a starting role next season is nearly nonexistent.

Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid Fans’ Player of the Season. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Defying all expectations in his debut season, Jude Bellingham established himself as a key player for Real Madrid, demonstrating exceptional versatility, and maturity far beyond his years.

Although the Englishman’s performances wavered in the final stretch of the season, Bellingham’s contributions ensured Los Blancos were able to compete in the Champions League and especially La Liga.

In addition to scoring 23 goals in all competitions, he has constantly been a beacon of reliability in midfield and has proven to be the voice of reason on the pitch.

There have been murmurs about Bellingham potentially being berthed deeper next season as Real Madrid intends to use him as Kroos’ replacement. However, given his versatility, he is expected to be a crucial player wherever he plays.

Antonio Rudiger

A mainstay at the back. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Rudiger is one of the major reasons Real Madrid managed to successfully disguise their injury crisis. Despite players falling like dominos in the back-line, the German stood resolutely as a dependable figure for most of the campaign, arguably enjoying one of his best seasons.

Expertly anticipating opposition strikers’ movements, he leaps forward to thwart attacks before they begin. Moreover, thanks to his large stature and incredible recovery pace, he is able to cover distances behind.

Reports have mentioned that Carlo Ancelotti views him as a crucial component of the squad and potential arrivals, such as those of Leny Yoro and Rafa Marin, in the back-line are unlikely to devalue his presence.

Thibaut Courtois

Back like he was never gone. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

In spite of spending more than half of the campaign on the sidelines recovering from an ACL and MCL injury, Courtois is worth his weight in gold for Real Madrid.

He performed admirably in the final few games of the season and did no wrong against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League final.

While Andriy Lunin made up for his absence with flying colours, he is placed below Courtois in the pecking order for now, which also has made the Ukrainian lean towards an exit.

The fact that Lunin, after his sublime season, stands no chance of dethroning Courtois between the sticks is a testament to how much the club appreciates the Belgian. Even at the age of 32, the Belgian keeper is anticipated to retain an important role in the team.

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