Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Real Valladolid
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.
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.
Real Madrid vs Athletic Club: End of an era, farewells, tight race for second place
Real Madrid will walk down the tunnel of Santiago Bernabeu one last time this season on Sunday night. The men in white are pitted against Athletic Club on their final match-day, and the game will not be an easy affair by any means.
The Basque side sit in seventh place on the league standings with 50 points in 37 appearances. However, their qualification for the UEFA Conference League is in danger with Osasuna lurking close behind with an equal number of points.
Anything less than a win could prove insufficient for the visitors and it is clear that they arrive at Santiago Bernabeu with nothing less than a win on their agenda. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao.
1. The end of an era for the number 9 shirt?
The grey area around Karim Benzema’s future has only widened in recent days. From a situation where his continuity at Real Madrid was taken for granted, it did not take long for the Frenchman’s story to enter a steep deviation.
An economically tempting proposal from Saudi Arabia had Benzema seriously contemplating a move away from Santiago Bernabeu, and reports stated that his departure from the Spanish club was close to complete.
The world, thus, looked in anticipation of his next official interaction with the media. The Ballon d’Or winner publicly addressed the topic for the first time earlier this week, and it is safe to say that his words gave nothing away.
Benzema neither confirmed nor completely refuted the rumours of his exit to the media. His situation is balanced on the blade of a knife and could tip in either direction.
In that sense, there is a good chance that tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu is Karim Benzema’s final game for Real Madrid. If the striker does choose to change loyalties, it would mark the end of an era for the team’s number nine position.
It has been over a decade since the Frenchman took over the prestigious kit. He has played 647 games for the club so far in his career, scoring a stunning 353 goals in the process. Of them, 98 have been match-winning contributions.
2. A day of farewells
Earlier today, Real Madrid announced the departure of Marco Asensio from the club. The Spanish winger appears set to sign for PSG for the 2023-24 season and will bid adieu on Sunday. However, he will not be the only player playing his final game for the club tomorrow.
Nacho Fernandez has been a critical part of Real Madrid’s success in recent years but is another name close to sealing an exit. The defender is not satisfied with the playing time under his belt at the club and has not yet responded to the renewal offer on his table.
With his contract running out in less than 30 days, he appears closer to leaving than staying. One can expect an announcement from Nacho on Sunday night after the game at the Bernabeu, which could be his final game in white.
The situation with Dani Ceballos is quite similar. The Spanish midfielder is still undecided on his future, although there is still a slight chance he could continue at the club. Staying on the subject of players making their final appearance, however, he could be one on the list.
Away from the stories of incomplete renewal negotiations, Mariano Diaz is one player whose departure from the club is confirmed. Ferland Mendy, Jesus Vallejo, Alvaro Odriozola and Eden Hazard are some of the other candidates well-placed to make departures, although nothing can be said for sure.
3. A tight race for second place
There is not much to play for on Sunday night except for the emotional tag of it being the season’s final game. Yet, the men in white will not be without an objective against Athletic Club.
Los Blancos sit on 77 points in 37 league appearances this season and just have a one-point lead over third-placed Atletico Madrid. Needless to say, they must be vary of their position on the standings for any complacency could see them drop down the ladder.
Diego Simeone’s men take on fifth-placed Villarreal at the same time as Real Madrid’s game against Athletic Club. Even if Carlo Ancelotti’s men settle for a draw against the Basque side, the second place would be Atletico Madrid’s to lose.
With both games kicking off simultaneously, there will be nerves throughout the ninety minutes in Madrid. One can only hope for action-filled games to keep the anxiety and adrenaline high.