The UEFA Champions League returns to the Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow night as Real Madrid embark on their campaign in the latest edition of the competition.
The men in white were drawn into Group C alongside SC Braga, Union Berlin and Napoli. The Italian outfit, quite clearly, will be the strongest competitor. Yet, one would back Real Madrid to make it out of the group and run deep into the event.
Their opponents on the first matchday, Union Berlin, have made a fair start to the Bundesliga this season. They sit eighth on the table in Germany with two wins out of four games so far in the league. Notably, they have scored nine goals in that short duration.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Union Berlin.
The real business begins
Real Madrid are one of the few clubs in world football that bloom under pressure. After all, it is that characteristic that has helped them to a record number of UEFA Champions League trophy tally.
The men in white are a completely different monster on the European front year after year, irrespective of the squad or form. Real Madrid can never be written off in the UCL, for comebacks are their bread and butter.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men fancy the knockout format of the prestigious competition, for it pushes them to perform at their highest level with an immediate reward. Sparing the defeat to Manchester City last season, Los Blancos seldom lose in the UEFA Champions League.
The Merengues are thus one of the favourites in the build-up to the new UCL campaign, and they kick off their path to the knockouts on Wednesday night.
Tomorrow’s clash, in a way, marks the true beginning of Real Madrid’s season for the UCL is the ultimate dream. The momentum is on their side, and the hosts will hope to carry forward the same against Union Berlin.
One man down
Real Madrid have had a rough going with injuries so far this season. They are currently without the services of Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao, Arda Guler and Vinicius Jr and have lost one more name in the buildup to the UCL curtain-raiser.
As relayed earlier today, Dani Carvajal suffered a muscle injury which will keep him on the sidelines tomorrow night. He is, in fact, expected to miss the derby against Atletico Madrid later this week as well.
The right-back’s unavailability comes as a massive blow to Ancelotti’s plans, for Carvajal has been a regular starter for the team so far this campaign.
Moreover, he has adapted perfectly to the 4-3-3 diamond setup and has gone the extra mile to contribute in the final third.
With the 31-year-old unavailable against Union Berlin, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference that Lucas Vazquez will start for Real Madrid at right-back.
The Spaniard is no stranger to playing at right-back for Los Blancos and has served as their deputy full-back for a long time now. Yet, he has had a minimal role to play this season and one wonders how match-fit he is.
Vazquez has played just 30 minutes across three La Liga games for Real Madrid this season and averages under 0.5 key passes per game. With Vinicius Jr and Carvajal unavailable, it remains to be seen where Ancelotti’s plans to generate threats against the German side.
Need for caution in defence
With five wins in as many games, Real Madrid are the only team in La Liga yet to drop a point.
All of their games to this point have presented unique storylines and have placed the team in different situations. Some wins have been convincing, others not so much. In fact, it would not be wrong to call the team’s perfect record a result of Jude Bellingham’s imperious form.
One of the most glaring deficiencies in Carlo Ancelotti’s team, however, is the trend of conceding early goals.
The trend began on Matchday 2 when Real Madrid conceded a third-minute opener to Almeria at the Power Horse Stadium. They eventually came back to win the game but made the same mistake in the clash against Getafe at home.
The Merengues luckily escaped with all three points against Jose Bordalas’ side. This past weekend, Real Sociedad once again took an early lead by scoring in just the fifth minute of the game.
While the goals have not cost them anything so far, it is worrying that the defence has been so slack for three out of the team’s five games. Needless to say, Ancelotti will be looking to rectify that flaw and will push for a comprehensive defensive show tomorrow.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Las Palmas | La Liga
The heartbreak at Civitas Metropolitano saw Real Madrid drop down to third on the La Liga standings for the first time this season. They now sit on 15 points from six games, only one point behind leaders Barcelona.
Yet, there is barely time for the team to recover. Less than 72 hours after their defeat, the Merengues play host to Las Palmas in the seventh Matchday of La Liga in a tricky fixture.
Garcia Pimienta’s side have improved leaps and bounds in recent times, although their start to the new season has been far from positive.
Las Palmas were winless in their first five league games but picked up a first win in their most recent outing against Granada.
With the visitors coming off their first win and the hosts their first loss, it will be interesting to see how the game of momentum plays out.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Wednesday’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu.
The important reaction
Having secured six wins in six games under their belt, the threat of breaking the moment was always lurking around the corner from Real Madrid. After all, their wins to that point were not always convincing.
Jude Bellingham’s magic, Joselu’s constant threat and the talented midfield helped Los Blancos on their way to scrappy wins over the weeks. Yet, it was always glaringly clear that they had deficiencies in defence and the final third.
All of Real Madrid’s troubles came to the forefront on Sunday and were left glaringly exposed. The end result was a defeat that left a bitter taste in the mouths of players and fans.
Despite facing their first setback of the season, however, the men in white have no time to lament. After all, the hectic schedule leaves them little time between games.
It is thus of utmost importance that Real Madrid does not slip into a vicious state of negative momentum. As they face off against Las Palmas midweek, Carlo Ancelotti’s side needs a strong and dominant win to keep spirits high.
Considering that they will be back at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid will be the favourites by far on the night. Nevertheless, there will be pressure on the players to take all three points.
Limelight on the manager
The aftermath of the defeat to Atletico Madrid sent ripples through the Spanish media. It was reported that the Real Madrid board was not entirely happy with the list of ‘sins’ committed by Ancelotti in the clash at Civitas Metropolitano.
It thus goes without saying that the limelight will be on the manager on Wednesday.
For starters, the Italian gaffer must get the starting lineup right and not go overboard with his rotations. Aurelien Tchouameni is a must for the Merengues’ defensive efforts and must be introduced back into the lineup midweek.
Moreover, there will be pressure on him to revert to the winning 4-4-2 diamond formation featuring two natural forwards including a striker.
With Joselu returning to the lineup, Jude Bellingham must shift back to his more comfortable attacking midfield role.
Moreover, the manager must strike the right balance between youth and experience, for both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric can no longer start together.
Perhaps the most important job Ancelotti is faced with, however, is in defence. Both David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger appeared lost in the last game, and it remains to be seen if the manager ropes Nacho Fernandez in to strike a better dynamic.
Return of the magician
While Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao are amongst Real Madrid’s most valuable players, it is Vinicius Jr’s injury that hit the club the hardest.
The Merengues unfortunately have a very thin and fragile forward line this season with just three players competing for two spots. Of the three names, Vinicius is the single most important one.
The Brazilian star may not have started the 2023-24 season at his optimal level considering his altered role in the new formation. Yet, he is the Merengues’ most lethal weapon to break open defences and create chances.
The men in white have had problems since the Selecao star hobbled off the field injured against Celta Vigo.
Their games against Getafe and Union Berlin were both down to last-gasp winners, while the defeat to Atletico Madrid showed everything wrong with the team.
Vinicius Jr is set to make his return in tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu, and there could be no better news for Ancelotti.