Real Madrid did not enjoy the best of nights when they took on SC Braga at the Estadio Municipal de Braga last month.
The hosts, though relatively new to the elite European stage, put pressure on Carlo Ancelotti’s side for large parts of the game and even finished the game with a higher xG tally.
The eventual result, thus, was harsh on the hosts. Precise finishes from Rodrygo Goes and Jude Bellingham helped Real Madrid return home with all three points and a comfortable lead in the standings.
Come Wednesday, the two teams lock horns once more. The home advantage will be on Real Madrid’s side this time around, giving them an impetus to improve their performance and result against Artur Jorge’s men.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs SC Braga.
A rare hiccup
Real Madrid’s win in El Clasico was significant in many ways. For starters, it put the Merengues four points ahead of arch-rivals Barcelona in the league title race. Yet, the psychological impact of the defeat on the Catalans and the win on the capital club’s dressing room is a matter less talked about.
The game last month summarised Los Blancos’ season so far in a nutshell. Indeed, the men in white have been far from convincing in most of their outings this season, banking on individual brilliance to pull them out.
Yet, they have managed to roll the wins in convincingly. It may not be the ideal way to rope in three points, but they are three points regardless.
Of their 14 games ahead of kickoff against Rayo Vallecano, Carlo Ancelotti’s men had walked away winners on twelve occasions. Their only defeat came against Atletico Madrid, and the record spoke volumes about their ability to deliver the winning punch irrespective of the game situation.
That, however, was exactly what did not happen in the last game vs Rayo. Over 90 minutes, Real Madrid accumulated an xG of 2.19 and had 22 shots on target. They had two big chances, a lethal counterattack and 14 shots inside the box, only for the game to end 0-0.
It was a rare hiccup from a team on song, and Ancelotti will hope his men let it pass as an unlucky draw. What is important is that they come out all guns blazing tomorrow, looking to get back to winning ways against Braga.
After all, Braga are no easy fish and were the better side against Real Madrid in their most recent meeting.
The big doubt
It has not taken long for Jude Bellingham to make himself a regular at Real Madrid. The new signing has enjoyed a scintillating start to life in Spain and is now the team’s single most important player.
So far this season, he has scored ten goals in just eleven games for the club in La Liga and three in three in Europe. Operating as the attacking midfielder in a diamond setup, he has shone in the role.
Bellingham’s fitness setback against Rayo Vallecano last weekend thus came as a big setback to Ancelotti’s plans.
The youngster took a heavy fall to the ground just ten minutes into the game at the Santiago Bernabeu, landing awkwardly on his shoulder. While he did complete the game heavily strapped, tests revealed a dislocated shoulder.
Bellingham has made the squad to play midweek, but the management is likely to prioritise his fitness over the UCL clash. With the team’s most attacking asset unavailable, Ancelotti has a mountain to climb.
The tactical adjustment
Such is the impact of Bellingham on this Real Madrid side, that his fitness problem is reportedly prompting Ancelotti to consider a complete change in formation against Braga.
Real Madrid could line up in a 4-4-3 setup on the night to emphasise their stability. With Eduardo Camavinga covering in the defensive midfield, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric could both start on the night as interiors.
Federico Valverde is expected to start down the right wing, as he did so many times last season, while Vinicius Jr takes on the role of a left-winger. Rodrygo Goes is best placed to start as the centre-forward.
It thus remains to be seen how the team fares with a sudden change in system, if the manager does indeed make such an adjustment. All eyes, needless to say, will be on the midfield.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli | UEFA Champions League
Fresh off their 3-0 win against Cadiz at the weekend, Real Madrid return to the field late on Wednesday night to take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A lot has changed since the two teams last met. Napoli sacked Rudi Garcia not so long ago and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new manager. The Italian got off to a great start in the form of a 2-1 win over Atalanta in his first game in the position.
Yet, he will face his first big test in the form of Real Madrid later tomorrow. The Naples-based side will have a lot to prove to their manager and the fans on the night, but it is clear that the Merengues will not treat the fixture lightly either.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli.
The headlining clash
The UEFA Champions League leaves fans spoilt for choice, for it offers the highest quality of football between some of the world’s best teams on a regular basis. The headlining fixtures begin as early as the group stages and only grow in promise as the season progresses.
When Real Madrid were drawn into Group C in this year’s UCL, all eyes were on the team that would take the next highest-seeded spot. It was eventually Napoli that made the cut, making the Spanish-Italian clash the group’s most-awaited game.
Since then, the two teams have already faced off once at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Matchday two of the competition. The clash was evenly balanced for the most part, but Jude Bellingham’s masterclass enabled a narrow 3-2 Real Madrid win.
Close to two months on, the two European giants face off once more, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot help but call the upcoming clash the title clash of the matchday, especially considering the two team’s recent history and what rides on the result.
Real Madrid’s place in the Round of 16 was confirmed after their win over SC Braga in the last matchday. Napoli, however, are yet to secure such confirmation and a defeat tomorrow could potentially reduce their gap over Braga to one point.
Napoli thus need the win to maintain security over their qualification, while Real Madrid hope to cement their place as group leaders with a win. With both teams having a lot riding on the result, the game will have no dearth of life on the night.
Carlo Ancelotti spent many a day in the recent international break plotting means to overcome his midfield crisis. After all, he was without the services of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga had also suffered a gruesome injury on national team duty.
The manager thus deployed his best midfield quartet for the clash against Cadiz, hoping to improve the harmony between the four stars. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham all started but the situation got ugly after the 38-year-old walked off injured in the second half.
Ancelotti thus now faces a bottleneck in midfield. Modric has been excluded from the squad after his latest injury, leaving the manager with just four options from the first-team in midfield. Needless to say, all four players are expected to start in Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond formation on the night.
Bellingham will be deployed as the attacking midfielder while Kroos is likely to play as the pivot. The two interiors will be Dani Ceballos and Valverde, the former of whom has not started a single game all season.
The situation in midfield is thus grim, for the manager can not afford any further injuries in the department.
The man in form
The beginning of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 campaign was all about Jude Bellingham. The Englishman could not stop scoring goals for fun across all competitions and single-handedly won games even in situations where all hope seemed lost.
Rodrygo has stolen the limelight from the English protege in recent weeks, and his resurgence could not come at a better time for Ancelotti. After all, the Brazilian was enduring one of his worst-ever starts to a season but managed to find his footing exactly after Bellingham suffered the blow to his shoulder.
The 22-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in Real Madrid’s recent games. His purple patch began against Braga when he scored once and assisted once to give Los Blancos three critical points.
In the team’s subsequent clash against Valencia, Rodrygo stole the show. In 90 minutes against Los Che, the youngster scored two goals and provided as many assists in the team’s 5-1 win. He added another two goals and an assist to his tally in Real Madrid’s most recent clash against Cadiz.
Needless to say, the spotlight will shine brightly on Rodrygo in tomorrow’s game. As the team’s most in-form player, the onus will be on him to find the required breakthroughs on the night and lead the attack from the front in Vinicius Jr.’s absence.