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Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia | Spanish Super Cup

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Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images

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

Alaba and Tchouameni ruled out (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

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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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