Four of Spain’s top teams face off against each other in Saudi Arabia for the Spanish Super Cup this week. The winners of the two semi-finals will take on each other for glory at the weekend to walk away with the piece of silverware.
After already winning the UEFA Super Cup in their first game of the season, Real Madrid will look to wrap up their second trophy. First, however, they must get past a stubborn Valencia.
Gennaro Gattuso’s men have not had the best of starts to the new league season and currently sit 11th with just five wins in 16 games. They are coming on the back of a disastrous run of form, having lost their last two La Liga games and two friendlies before that.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men are coming off a loss themselves, yet are the overwhelming favourites to progress to a possible El Clasico final, with Barcelona facing Real Betis in the other semi-finals.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points before the Merengues‘ Supercopa opener.
1. The trademark bounce-back
Had the Villarreal and Real Madrid players exchanged jerseys and played out the ninety minutes at Estadio de la Ceramica on Saturday, one would be convinced that Quique Setien’s men were the European Champions. Such was the extent of the Yellow Submarines’ dominance on the night.
At some points in the game, the visitors struggled to string two passes in succession without losing the ball to Villarreal’s high press. The Spanish side showed the world Real Madrid’s weak spots, and there is no doubt that Valencia would have taken note of the same.
Yet, it is not in the club’s DNA to get washed out in a game and not strike back. The best sides face adversity and come out second best on occasion. What separates Real Madrid from the rest is their ability to come back stronger and they will look to do the same in Riyadh.
Ancelotti has built a mentality monster during his second stint at the Santiago Bernabeu. One can already sense the trademark Real Madrid masterclass impending on Wednesday night to serve as a reminder to the world that the events at the weekend were just a mild blemish in their season.
2. Two missing cogs
Carlo Ancelotti and his troupe have already made the long trip to Riyadh and are currently training in Saudi Arabia. Two key players, however, did not make the squad list through injury and thus will not be available for the Super Cup.
Yesterday, Ancelotti’s side officially announced that Aurelien Tchouameni had suffered an injury to his left soleus muscle. The Frenchman will be on the sidelines until his recovery is satisfactory, potentially three weeks.
David Alaba finds himself in a similar situation after suffering a blow to his right soleus muscle. Thus, the Austrian International too will be unavailable for the tournament.
With two regular starters ruled out of action, Carlo Ancelotti will have to find a quick-fix solution for both departments, although one is relatively easier to mend.
Alaba’s unavailability opens the door for Antonio Rudiger and Eder Militao to start as the centre-backs on the night. With the previous game’s right-back relocated centrally, Dani Carvajal is expected to return to the starting lineup.
The problem in midfield, however, is slightly trickier. Toni Kroos is best placed to take over as the pivot and will look to hold the fort against Valencia. He could be joined by Luka Modric and Federico Valverde in the middle of the park.
3. Switch in mentality
The fundamental difference between playing a league and a cup is the sudden change in margin for error. A defeat on both fronts is intolerable, but a league format provides some cushion to come back from an occasional slip-up.
The Spanish Super Cup’s rebranding into a new format makes it more ruthless than ever. To walk away with the trophy, Los Blancos will have to win two out of two games and hence must now tread a tightrope.
Needless to say, it all boils down to switching the mentality and stepping onto the field for a flawless ninety minutes. Real Madrid under Ancelotti have proven to possess that shade numerous times in the past season and will look to channel the same energy for the rest of the week.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia
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.