The season has no respite for clubs, especially for those of Real Madrid’s stature. Balancing two competitions in tandem is no mean feat, and the addition of international fixtures to the calendar only aggravates the strain.
Real Madrid’s clash against Valencia later today brings an end to the latest stretch of six relentless clashes for Los Blancos. It brings with it the dawn of a new international break, after which another set of gruelling clashes awaits the players.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men will hope to close the phase on a high, but it is easier said than done. Valencia are a side in the ascendency, and with three wins in their last five games, match Real Madrid’s form in terms of results.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.
Lunin’s moment to shine
All eyes were on Andriy Lunin when Thibaut Courtois suffered an ACL injury early in the season. The Ukrainian international, after all, had just decided to stay at the club until the end of his contract and was struggling with a lack of minutes at the club.
Yet, the youngster never allowed his level on the field to drop. Even on his occasional and unexpected starts last season, he ensured to deliver a performance that demanded more prominence from the manager.
Lunin started in goal for Real Madrid’s season opener against Athletic Club where he enjoyed a relatively silent night. Los Blancos meanwhile signed Kepa Arrizabalaga as a temporary replacement in goal, and the team’s clash against Almeria ended up being Lunin’s last game for a while.
The former Chelsea goalkeeper took over as Ancelotti’s primary option in goal and has established himself as a reliable option, pushing Lunin back into the shadows. The 24-year-old returned to the field only midweek against Braga after the club announced Kepa’s injury.
The on-loan star is expected to miss the next few weeks and could make it in time after the international break. Tomorrow’s clash, thus, could be Lunin’s last chance to prove his worth to the manager.
The Ukrainian star delivered a special performance against Braga, making four saves including one penalty stop. Further, two saves came from inside the box. Against Valencia, he will look to maintain his level or even take it up a notch.
Back with Bellingham
An awkward landing on his shoulder against Rayo Vallecano forced Jude Bellingham to sit the game against Braga out. He was in the squad, but the manager and administration preferred to allow him to rest and ensure complete fitness.
His shoulder dislocation was never expected to rule him out for more than one game, and the player could well be ready to return to the starting lineup tonight. If Ancelotti’s comments in the pre-game press conference are anything to go by, there is a good chance of that happening.
“The player says he is comfortable. He trained normally today. He is available. If nothing unusual happens in the last few hours, I think he will play,” the manager said.
For starters, Bellingham’s return to the lineup would displace Brahim Diaz, one of the heroes of Real Madrid’s midweek UCL clash. The youngster played a key role in Los Blancos’ result, even scoring a goal on the night. Yet, displacing Bellingham given the form he is in would be close to impossible.
Further, the English protege’s return will ensure that Real Madrid return to a more tangible 4-4-2 diamond formation in possession as Bellingham thrives in the area behind the forwards.
No room for complacency
Twelve games into La Liga EA Sports, Real Madrid sit on 29 points. They have won nine of their games so far, losing just once against Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona, the defending champions, are not far behind with 27 points as they took a blow with the Clasico defeat. Atletico Madrid lurk right behind the Catalans with just two points less, albeit with a game in hand.
There is thus not much that separates the three giants of Spanish football, as has always been the case in La Liga in recent seasons. The surprise comes when one looks above Real Madrid in the standings.
Shockingly, yet commendably, Girona sit at the pinnacle of the La Liga standings almost a third into the season. Michel’s men have been in emphatic form this season, winning ten of their twelve league matches and losing just once to Real Madrid.
With 29 goals scored in twelve games, they top the league in terms of goals as well and currently sit two points clear of Los Blancos.
Girona have proved that their position is no miracle and that they are genuine contenders for the title. Needless to say, it is high time Real Madrid buckle up and churn out consistent results in La Liga again. After all, they have drawn two of their last three games in Spain and were lucky to get the win against Barcelona as well.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli | UEFA Champions League
Fresh off their 3-0 win against Cadiz at the weekend, Real Madrid return to the field late on Wednesday night to take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A lot has changed since the two teams last met. Napoli sacked Rudi Garcia not so long ago and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new manager. The Italian got off to a great start in the form of a 2-1 win over Atalanta in his first game in the position.
Yet, he will face his first big test in the form of Real Madrid later tomorrow. The Naples-based side will have a lot to prove to their manager and the fans on the night, but it is clear that the Merengues will not treat the fixture lightly either.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli.
The headlining clash
The UEFA Champions League leaves fans spoilt for choice, for it offers the highest quality of football between some of the world’s best teams on a regular basis. The headlining fixtures begin as early as the group stages and only grow in promise as the season progresses.
When Real Madrid were drawn into Group C in this year’s UCL, all eyes were on the team that would take the next highest-seeded spot. It was eventually Napoli that made the cut, making the Spanish-Italian clash the group’s most-awaited game.
Since then, the two teams have already faced off once at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Matchday two of the competition. The clash was evenly balanced for the most part, but Jude Bellingham’s masterclass enabled a narrow 3-2 Real Madrid win.
Close to two months on, the two European giants face off once more, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot help but call the upcoming clash the title clash of the matchday, especially considering the two team’s recent history and what rides on the result.
Real Madrid’s place in the Round of 16 was confirmed after their win over SC Braga in the last matchday. Napoli, however, are yet to secure such confirmation and a defeat tomorrow could potentially reduce their gap over Braga to one point.
Napoli thus need the win to maintain security over their qualification, while Real Madrid hope to cement their place as group leaders with a win. With both teams having a lot riding on the result, the game will have no dearth of life on the night.
Carlo Ancelotti spent many a day in the recent international break plotting means to overcome his midfield crisis. After all, he was without the services of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga had also suffered a gruesome injury on national team duty.
The manager thus deployed his best midfield quartet for the clash against Cadiz, hoping to improve the harmony between the four stars. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham all started but the situation got ugly after the 38-year-old walked off injured in the second half.
Ancelotti thus now faces a bottleneck in midfield. Modric has been excluded from the squad after his latest injury, leaving the manager with just four options from the first-team in midfield. Needless to say, all four players are expected to start in Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond formation on the night.
Bellingham will be deployed as the attacking midfielder while Kroos is likely to play as the pivot. The two interiors will be Dani Ceballos and Valverde, the former of whom has not started a single game all season.
The situation in midfield is thus grim, for the manager can not afford any further injuries in the department.
The man in form
The beginning of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 campaign was all about Jude Bellingham. The Englishman could not stop scoring goals for fun across all competitions and single-handedly won games even in situations where all hope seemed lost.
Rodrygo has stolen the limelight from the English protege in recent weeks, and his resurgence could not come at a better time for Ancelotti. After all, the Brazilian was enduring one of his worst-ever starts to a season but managed to find his footing exactly after Bellingham suffered the blow to his shoulder.
The 22-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in Real Madrid’s recent games. His purple patch began against Braga when he scored once and assisted once to give Los Blancos three critical points.
In the team’s subsequent clash against Valencia, Rodrygo stole the show. In 90 minutes against Los Che, the youngster scored two goals and provided as many assists in the team’s 5-1 win. He added another two goals and an assist to his tally in Real Madrid’s most recent clash against Cadiz.
Needless to say, the spotlight will shine brightly on Rodrygo in tomorrow’s game. As the team’s most in-form player, the onus will be on him to find the required breakthroughs on the night and lead the attack from the front in Vinicius Jr.’s absence.