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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Union Berlin | UEFA Champions League

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Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images

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

Dani Carvajal will be a big miss. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

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.

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Features

Five players who will be fixed starters for Real Madrid next season

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Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images

Following a successful campaign, Real Madrid are poised for significant changes in their roster due to a combination of player arrivals and departures.

The responsibility of blending new faces with established stars will fall to coach Carlo Ancelotti and his staff as they aim to maintain the club’s competitive edge domestically and in Europe.

And to predict the team’s probable strategy and performance amidst these changes, it is imperative to identify the key players who will be constant starters.

Kylian Mbappe

The new talisman. (Photo by ROMAIN PERROCHEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

With Real Madrid no longer viewing Mbappe through rose-tinted lenses and finally being able to dress him in the royal white jersey, the Frenchman is expected to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Owing to his instinctive nature to find the back of the net, he is poised to be paired alongside Vinicius Jr. in attack.

Last season, the 2018 World Cup winner scored a whopping 44 goals in all competitions. Thus Real Madrid will be banking heavily on Mbappe’s ability to ask questions of opposition defenders in the final third.

It is being said that Mbappe is all set to wear the iconic number 9 jersey at Real Madrid, which is indicative of the role he will play, as a focal striker.

Vinicius Jr.

The main man at Real Madrid. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The Brazilian is in pole position to win the Ballon d’Or this year, and looking back on his season with Real Madrid, it is easy to see why.

Despite losing Karim Benzema, his usual partner in crime over the past few years, Vinicius performed remarkably well in Ancelotti’s new system.

Relentlessly taking on defenders, arriving into space, scoring goals, and stepping up in the biggest of moments, he was one of Real Madrid’s major lynchpins throughout the season as they lifted a historic double.

Vinicius impressively racked up 24 goals last season, and given his importance to the team, the likelihood of him not maintaining a starting role next season is nearly nonexistent.

Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid Fans’ Player of the Season. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Defying all expectations in his debut season, Jude Bellingham established himself as a key player for Real Madrid, demonstrating exceptional versatility, and maturity far beyond his years.

Although the Englishman’s performances wavered in the final stretch of the season, Bellingham’s contributions ensured Los Blancos were able to compete in the Champions League and especially La Liga.

In addition to scoring 23 goals in all competitions, he has constantly been a beacon of reliability in midfield and has proven to be the voice of reason on the pitch.

There have been murmurs about Bellingham potentially being berthed deeper next season as Real Madrid intends to use him as Kroos’ replacement. However, given his versatility, he is expected to be a crucial player wherever he plays.

Antonio Rudiger

A mainstay at the back. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Rudiger is one of the major reasons Real Madrid managed to successfully disguise their injury crisis. Despite players falling like dominos in the back-line, the German stood resolutely as a dependable figure for most of the campaign, arguably enjoying one of his best seasons.

Expertly anticipating opposition strikers’ movements, he leaps forward to thwart attacks before they begin. Moreover, thanks to his large stature and incredible recovery pace, he is able to cover distances behind.

Reports have mentioned that Carlo Ancelotti views him as a crucial component of the squad and potential arrivals, such as those of Leny Yoro and Rafa Marin, in the back-line are unlikely to devalue his presence.

Thibaut Courtois

Back like he was never gone. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

In spite of spending more than half of the campaign on the sidelines recovering from an ACL and MCL injury, Courtois is worth his weight in gold for Real Madrid.

He performed admirably in the final few games of the season and did no wrong against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League final.

While Andriy Lunin made up for his absence with flying colours, he is placed below Courtois in the pecking order for now, which also has made the Ukrainian lean towards an exit.

The fact that Lunin, after his sublime season, stands no chance of dethroning Courtois between the sticks is a testament to how much the club appreciates the Belgian. Even at the age of 32, the Belgian keeper is anticipated to retain an important role in the team.

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