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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs UD Almeria | La Liga

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Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

La Liga returns to the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday as Real Madrid get back in action for the first time since their elimination in the Copa del Rey. It is, in fact, the team’s only home game before they host Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga once again.

With the Spanish Cup out of the way, Los Blancos have more breathing space on their calendar and can focus more clearly on the competitions left in hand. That was how Carlo Ancelotti put it after the defeat to Diego Simeone’s side, but his men will have to show the same attitude on the field against Almeria.

The manager is expected to make changes, especially in midfield and in the final third. Joselu and Toni Kroos are the players expected to feature in the lineup, although nothing can be said with certainty until the game is upon us. The objective, however, will be to return to winning ways.

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

Eyes towards the front

Real Madrid have only suffered two defeats all season. Both results came at the Civitas Metropolitano and against Atletico Madrid in derbies.

Not many saw Los Blancos’ elimination from the Copa del Rey coming. After all, Ancelotti’s side had just downed Atletico Madrid in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup days ago and were fresh off a stunning win over Barcelona in the final.

How the Merengues’ dressing room takes the defeat will count for so much of their football that is yet to come. After all, Real Madrid have not tasted defeat much this season and it is vital that the young core keep their focus on the games that lie ahead and not the results that have passed.

The team’s run across all competitions to this point has been stunning and has rightfully generated the impression that Real Madrid are invincible. In that sense, the defeat in the cup came at the optimal time.

Halfway through the season, with the business end coming hard and fast, Los Blancos needed a stern reminder and reality check before the success got into the players’ heads. If they use the result to fire up their engine and stay grounded, the sky is the limit for the club.

If they take the negatives from the result, however, they may have to incur a heavy price.

Who will be the league keeper?

Kepa and Lunin Real Madrid
The goalkeeping debate rages on (Photo courtesy: GETTY Images)

Ancelotti has faced a constant dilemma between Kepa Arrizabalaga and Andriy Lunin in recent weeks. Both players are in their best moments and demand a regular spot, but as football has it, only one player can start in every game.

The manager’s workaround to the same was to alternate the two players. While the arrangement did provide both players an equal chance to participate, it has not gone down well as it does not help either star’s cause. The lack of continuity disturbs their rhythm and the team’s play.

Earlier this month, media brought out a report that Ancelotti had chosen Lunin to be his primary keeper in both La Liga and the UEFA Champions League with the Spaniard covering in Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup.

Yet, it was Lunin who started both against Barcelona in the Supercopa and Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey. Moreover, with Los Blancos no longer in the Cup, that arrangement will not work anymore.

All eyes thus focus on the goalkeeping spot ahead of Sunday’s game. Ancelotti’s selection on the day could well point to who his preferred option for the rest of the campaign can be, although it will not be binding. Lunin, as it stands, appears to be the favourite.

The dark horse phenomena

Nothing has gone right for Almeria in La Liga this season. 20 games into the season, they are yet to taste victory and have come out second best on 14 occasions.

Their highest goalscorer this season is former Real Madrid Castilla starlet Sergio Arribas who left the club last summer. They have conceded 43 goals so far in the league, average under a goal scored per game, and languish in last place on the standings.

Despite their poor run of form and the cloud of negativity around their performances, Gaizka Garitano’s side pulled off a massive upset last weekend. Faced against leaders Girona, they held the Catalans to a gruelling goalless draw to take two precious points.

Almeria’s result against Girona has two repercussions for Real Madrid. For starters, it gifts the Merengues a golden chance to steal the lead in the league race over Girona. If Ancelotti’s men win on Sunday, they will move to 51 points, two points clear of Girona.

On the other hand, it gives the dressing room a much-needed warning that Almeria are no pushaways. Girona have torn through the best clubs in Spain this season, and to hold them to a draw is a testament to their quality and grit.

It is thus essential that Real Madrid enter Sunday’s game with the right mentality. As a team pressed for wins, Garitano’s side will come out all guns blazing for they have nothing to lose.

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Features

Real Madrid 1-0 Sevilla: Player Ratings

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Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Following Barcelona’s convincing 4-0 win against Getafe yesterday, the onus was on Real Madrid to reinstate the eight-point gap between the sides as they hosted Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu today.

Lucas Vazquez opened the scoring for los blancos after ten minutes, but the goal was controversially disallowed for a foul on Youssef En-Nesyri in the build-up.

Madrid found it difficult to unlock Sevilla’s defence after that, with the first-half ending 0-0 after just one shot on target from both teams combined.

Madrid started the second 45 with more intent, creating some better scoring opportunities, but were left without success until an unbelievable effort from Luka Modric scathed the post and went in.

Sergio Ramos put in a wonderful performance on his return to the Santiago Bernabeu for Sevilla, but it was not enough as Madrid escaped with all three points and an eight-point lead on top of the table.

Andriy Lunin: 8

Was not called into action in the first-half, and was pretty much faultless in possession. But made an incredible save off Romero’s effort in the second half and was extremely proactive collecting crosses, too. Game-changing.

Lucas Vazquez: 7

Did a good job overlapping and was unlucky that his goal was disallowed. Did well to deal with Romero and Ocampos defensively.

Antonio Rudiger: 6.5

Rudiger was lucky that Romero and En-Nesyri did not convert their efforts from close range, as he often left space in behind. Went up to attack with the score at 0-0, too, but came back fruitless.

Nacho: 6

Was substituted off after 75 minutes after an mostly average display. Again, lucky that he was not punished for the space he left behind.

Ferland Mendy: 7

A few decent moves for Mendy today, but for the most part, his inability to overlap properly gave Vinicius too much to do.

Federico Valverde: 8

By far the most active midfielder today, Valverde was everywhere. Ran the show for Madrid, both in possession and stopping counter attacks before they even started. Missed the easiest chance of the game, though.

Aurelien Tchouameni: 6.5

Did his job as the 6 well, kept the game ticking and kept finding the spare man in midfield. Moved back to the defence eventually, and came away with a clean sheet.

Toni Kroos: 7

With Madrid struggling to break through Sevilla’s defence, Kroos was tasked with a lot of deep progression. Created some tame chances here and there, but failed to find properly find a man through.

Brahim Diaz: 7.5

Kept Kike Salas and Ocampos on their toes, making some tremendous solo runs from deep, but was often left without support. Created a brilliant chance for Valverde, that was scuffed.

Rodrygo: 7

Did not take many risks in possesion, but was crucial in Vinicius and Brahim finding space on the wing by offering support.

Vinicius Jr: 7.5

With the Sevilla defence looking very organised, the onus was on Vinicius to create something out of nothing. He attempted a few different things, including flicking the ball over players and attempting shots from distance, but all unsuccessful.

Has to be credited for the effort, though, especially with the rest of the team lacking.

SUBSTITUTES

Luka Modric: 8.5

Super-sub Luka Modric coming in clutch for Madrid today with his wonder goal from outside the box. Was also brilliant in possession, increasing the tempo of the game.

Dani Ceballos: N/A

Alvaro Rodriguez: N/A

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