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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Shakhtar Donetsk

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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 Real Madrid vs Valencia

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

For all the institutional and sporting catastrophes Valencia suffer from, they put up a resilient show against Real Madrid last month and held them to a draw in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.

Having fired Gennaro Gattuso less than 48 hours ago, Los Che will be under the command of an interim coach at Santiago Bernabeu in the hope of repeating their feat from Saudi Arabia.

After all, they are struggling this season with just 20 points in 18 league appearances.

Valencia may not be the top team it used to be a couple of seasons ago, but there is a fighting spirit to the squad that makes them special.

As Real Madrid looks to make amends for their dropped points against La Real, some important considerations cross the manager’s mind regarding the clash against Los Che.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.

1. More names at Ancelotti’s disposal

Real Madrid’s long injury list has been a thorn in Carlo Ancelotti’s feet for a long time now. While the manager has had close to five players unavailable through fitness concerns, two names were considered irreplaceable.

Daniel Carvajal is the first on that list. The Spanish International’s presence gave the club hope after Lucas Vazquez’s injury last month, but almost as if planned, the 30-year-old immediately suffered a blow in training and was forced to sit out.

For four games, Ancelotti was thus forced to field Nacho Fernandez as his right-back. The centre-back did a good job at covering out of position, however, will be pushed back to the bench on Thursday as Los Blancos celebrate the return of Carvajal.

The defender is not the only one making his way back, as Aurelien Tchouameni also received the medical all-clear earlier this week.

The French pivot hobbled off an hour into Real Madrid’s league clash against Villarreal in the first week of January and has been sidelined for close to a month.

His absence pushed his coach to try numerous permutations in midfield, but it was finally Eduardo Camavinga who stamped his authority on the position.

With Tchouameni back roaring, his place in the starting lineup seems to be written in stone. One can expect the Frenchman to be deployed alongside Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos for his return to action on Thursday.

2. Concern shifts from right to left-back

The Merengues will finally have a natural right-back available to play against Valencia midweek. However, that does not signal the end of the Italian tactician’s trouble-riddles period.

Just when one full-back position returned to a state of normalcy, Real Madrid now have a crisis at left-back.

Ferland Mendy picked up a thigh injury earlier this week and will miss the team’s next two months of action at least. To say that this is a big blow to the club’s plans would be an understatement, for Mendy was the only natural left-back available in the squad.

David Alaba would appear to be the best-placed alternative, but the Austrian is ruled out through injury himself. Placed at a lack of options, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference earlier today that Eduardo Camavinga would play there against Valencia.

The youngster has played in the defensive position earlier but will face the heat going up against Jose Luis Gaya at Santiago Bernabeu.

Given that Valencia’s right flank put up a memorable display when the two teams met last month, one can be certain that Camavinga’s performance can make or break Real Madrid’s night.

3. No margin for error

Less than halfway through the league season, Los Blancos already find themselves five points behind Barcelona. The wide gap is not a consequence of the defending champions’ poor form but the sheer consistency of Xavi Hernandez’s men, who cannot stop winning.

Having won the Supercopa de Espana last month, the Catalans are currently riding high on confidence. With their season heading from strength to strength, Real Madrid must hold on and wait for the right opportunity to topple the tables.

The Galacticos‘ draw against Real Sociedad added two points to the gap between the top two sides last week. At this stage, Ancelotti’s men cannot afford any further slip-ups for a larger gap would be too much for the men in white to compensate.

Every game henceforth will be a final for Real Madrid in La Liga. Three points are the bare minimum the club can walk away with from any fixture, and that mission will start from their game against Valencia.

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