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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Shakhtar Donetsk



Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images

The points table of Group F in the UEFA Champions League aptly summarises the situation. Real Madrid sit comfortably in first place with six points with Shakhtar Donetsk closely behind with four. At the other end of the table, Celtic have just one point while RB Leipzig are surprisingly yet to open their account.

Matchday three sees the first and second-placed sides take on each other. A win for Real Madrid would give them a massive boost towards finishing on the top of the table while a loss would help the Ukrainians leapfrog Los Blancos.

Both sides have something to play for on Wednesday night at the Santiago Bernabeu and one can expect an attacking game. Both teams have scored five goals this season and will be hungry for more.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid’s midweek clash.

1. Modric back available for Real Madrid

Of all their stars on the roster, Luka Modric is the last player Real Madrid have wanted to be injured during the international break. For starters, the veteran is still the best midfielder in the team and quite often the difference maker who seals three points. More importantly, at 37 years of age, his fitness is a bigger concern.

Yet, the Croatian suffered a blow to his hip during the hectic hiatus from club football and Ancelotti’s side dropped points for the first time this season against Osasuna in their first game without him.

Now, as they head to the Champions League tie, Modric has returned to full fitness and is in line to feature against Shakhtar from kickoff.

There is little doubt that the Ballon d’Or winner is irreplaceable in Los Blancos’ setup. His ability to read the game, dictate the tempo and create chances out of thin air is something very few can dream of replicating. And his availability will come as a major boost for Carlo Ancelotti & co.

2. Focus on the captain

All eyes on Benzema. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

Coming back into the starting XI after close to a month, Karim Benzema missed a penalty against Osasuna that could have sealed all three points on the night. In 90 minutes, the Frenchman did not manage a single shot on target and hit the woodwork twice.

It would be harsh to say that Benzema’s start to the new season has been underwhelming. Yet, that is how it appears when one holds the striker against the astronomical standards he set for himself last season.

Statistically, the Ballon d’Or candidate has had an xG of over 7 across all competitions this season. Yet, he has found the back of the net only four times in what is an evident underperformance.

For a player of his quality, a single good game can turn around the season. Ancelotti will hope that the clash against the Ukrainians can be that special day for Benzema.

He will undoubtedly start on the night, donning the prestigious captain’s armband. All eyes will be on the French international, hoping to see leadership not only verbally but also by example.

3. One streak ends, but many more to come

Up until Sunday, Los Blancos boasted of a statistic that no other top European club could claim. The European Champions had not dropped a single point in eight games in La Liga and the Champions League, showing the world that they mean business this year.

However, that streak ended against Osasuna at the weekend when the Pamplona-based side held the hosts to a 1-1 draw. Indeed, it was a game that Real Madrid could have won had they been more clinical. Yet, as it is in the world of football, it was not the performance but only the scoreline that mattered.

Ancelotti’s side proved to the world last year why they are called the mentality monsters. Every time the team fell, they only used it as fuel to propel themselves to a greater height. That is precisely what the manager will hope his team can repeat on Wednesday.

Despite scoring 19 out of a possible 21 points in La Liga, Real Madrid find themselves second on the standings. With the race so tight, they will need longer and more consistent winning streaks to stay competitive and one would hope that the next such series of wins starts against Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.

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Three talking points ahead of Sevilla vs Real Madrid



Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Real Valladolid was far from convincing. They may have been the more effective side, but the Merengues were far from being the better team against Andoni Iraola’s men.

Saturday brings with it the team’s penultimate game of the campaign as Real Madrid take on Sevilla. The Andalusian side have not been impressive in La Liga this season but have always been one to turn up against the big teams. Tomorrow’s game is expected to be no different.

Carlo Ancelotti is expected to make drastic changes ahead of kickoff, especially given the incomplete squad travelling for the game. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Sevilla vs Real Madrid.

1. Final game on the road

The 2022-23 season has flown by in the blink of an eye. It may have been a rocky campaign and could have ended with better results, but there is a feeling that the squad has a lot to take away from the season as it is.

From the highs of completing a special Copa del Rey comeback win over Barcelona to the lows of losing three successive Clasicos, the men in white have seen it all. As the season now approaches the curtain-closing phase, Carlo Ancelotti and his men will be eager for a strong finish.

Sunday night will see the Merengues‘ final away game of the season as they travel to Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan to take on Sevilla. The 2021-22 champions have not had the best of seasons on the road in La Liga this season and a statement finish would go a long way in boosting the morale.

Sevilla have been far from their best this campaign domestically. Though they are well placed to taste glory in the UEFA Europa League once again, they languish in tenth place on the league standings with just 13 wins in 36 games.

Los Blancos boast a fine record at Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan and are unbeaten at the stadium in their last eight appearances. Their last defeat at the venue came back in 2018, and the objective tonight will be to extend the aforementioned streak.

2. Tchouameni’s point to prove

Point to prove. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)

As much as Aurelien Tchouameni’s initial months at the club were called paradise, the Frenchman has not had life easy at Real Madrid in his first season.

The Frenchman initially stepped in as a more than able replacement for Casemiro in the middle of the park. His astute reading of the game and defensive awareness made him a monster in midfield and his position in the starting lineup appeared safe.

Tchouameni’s situation, however, took a steep turn after the FIFA World Cup. Coming back from a fatiguing World Cup and a minor niggle, the defensive midfielder no longer found his name on the starting lineup as he became second fiddle to Eduardo Camavinga.

The entry of Toni Kroos as an option for the pivot role further reduced the Frenchman’s involvement.

The youngster thus has a point to prove on Sunday night. He is expected to start at the Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan and will look to orchestrate the team’s play from deep in midfield whilst holding the fortress simultaneously. After all, it could be his final chance to prove his worth ahead of the new season.

3. Only three forwards

Real Madrid’s squad list only names three forwards making the trip to Seville to take on Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side – Rodrygo Goes, Eden Hazard, and Alvaro Rodriguez.

The manager does have a fourth option in Federico Valverde and could look to mix and match his options on the night. However, Carlo Ancelotti maintained a low profile on the starting lineup ahead of Sunday’s clash, especially when asked about Eden Hazard’s chances of participating.

Given that it is the team’s penultimate game of the season, Ancelotti could well look to start all three pure forwards on the night. After all, each has their own special reason to participate.

For Hazard, the game against Sevilla could well be his final away game in a Real Madrid shirt. The Belgian is reluctant to leave the club at the moment, but everything could change in June if he begins to attract interest.

In Alvaro Rodriguez’s case, tomorrow’s game presents itself as an audition to seal a place in next season’s dynamics. The youngster has impressed whenever given the chance so far and will look to keep his high level going.

Rodrygo Goes, arguably, needs the game the least of the three candidates. Yet, with Ancelotti publicly asking him to take more prominence, he has a point to prove.

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