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Three talking points ahead of Real Sociedad vs Real Madrid

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Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

Real Madrid’s 4-2 demolition of Almeria at the weekend was the most fitting response to their defeat to Girona by the same scoreline on Matchday 31. It was a comprehensive 90-minute display from the defending champions who got back to winning ways on the evening.

Just three days after their last league encounter, the men in white take to the field again on Tuesday and face a stiffer challenge this time around. Imanol Alguacil’s Real Sociedad stare them in the eye and will be looking to capitalise on Los Blancos‘ hectic calendar.

Carlo Ancelotti has several dilemmas ahead of the game and faces certain crossroads that could alter the course of his team’s season. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Sociedad vs Real Madrid.

1. The greater objective

Real Sociedad are amongst the more dreaded La Liga oppositions in Spain. The Basque side have seen a solid rise in recent seasons and are even knocking on the doors for Champions League qualification with six games remaining.

La Real sit fourth in the league standings, eight points behind Atletico Madrid and ten below Real Madrid. Moreover, they took two points off Carlo Ancelotti’s men at a crucial juncture earlier in the season.

There is little doubt that the clash at Reale Arena will have no shortage of action. However, one knows that Real Madrid have another objective in mind and it is the hosts who will want the win more on Tuesday.

Real Madrid play the Copa del Rey final later in the week before taking on Manchester City early next week in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal. A win would no doubt keep the momentum on their side, but one knows that the critical games ahead will force Ancelotti back into his cage with certain decisions.

Going up against a stronger opposition on one side and a ruthless calendar on the other, the Italian manager must choose from one of two options. Go all out against Real Sociedad and prioritise the momentum ahead of individual players or risk losing to one of Spain’s in-form teams for the greater good.

2. A suspension of two colours

Suspended. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Vinicius Jr’s booking against Almeria was his tenth of the season and thus forces him to undergo the mandatory one-game suspension for the second time this season. He will thus not be available to menace La Real’s defence at Reale Arena.

The Brazilian’s absence is a big blow to Carlo Ancelotti’s plans, for Vinicius is indispensable for the team in every way. Not only is every attack orchestrated through the winger, but he also forms a critical part of maximising Karim Benzema’s output on the field.

At the same time, one knows that his suspension could not have come at a better time. Forced to operate without the Brazilian magician, Ancelotti will be gifted with a fully fit and rested Vinicius for the three decisive games that come ahead.

The manager could thus look to give Marco Asensio a start against Sociedad. The Spaniard has been phenomenal in his few minutes this term and is a deserved candidate to start. He will likely be joined by Karim Benzema and Rodrygo in the final third.

3. The Pichichi

Karim Benzema did not have the best of starts to his 2022/23 season. A combination of injuries and a lack of form saw him far from his best for most of the campaign. Moreover, the events of the FIFA World Cup took a big toll on his confidence.

However, everything has turned around in recent weeks. The Ballon d’Or winner has shown exactly why he hosted the coveted trophy last year and has been unstoppable in front of goal.

Benzema has three hat-tricks in his last eight appearances across all competitions. Most recently he put three past Almeria at the weekend.

His red-hot form has seen the Frenchman right back into the debate for the Pichichi Trophy. Robert Lewandowski appeared to be the outright favourite to walk away with the honour a few weeks ago but that is no longer the case.

Only two goals separate the duo on the top-scorers chart. With every passing game, Benzema is closing the gap and is now poised to overtake the Polish striker.

With 17 goals this season, Benzema is just two goals away from levelling at the top and Tuesday could just be the day he proves his class and takes the lead.

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Three questions and three answers from Mallorca 0-1 Real Madrid

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Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid scraped past Mallorca to secure three points on Saturday at Son Moix in what was a hard-fought game from start to finish.

Despite fielding a rotated squad, Los Blancos boasted of the momentum for large parts of the game and should have extended their lead to two or three goals with ease.

In the end, however, only a spectacular strike from Aurelien Tchouameni separated the two teams and Real Madrid maintained their lead in La Liga for the business end of the season.

More importantly, the Merengues retain the momentum on their side ahead of a do-or-die clash against Pep Guardiola’s men.

Madrid Universal brings you three questions and three answers from Mallorca 0-1 Real Madrid.

Three Answers

Ancelotti was not afraid of rotations

If Carlo Ancelotti’s pre-game press conference was anything to go by, it did not appear likely that the manager would look to make big changes for the clash against Mallorca. After all, he described it as a final and spoke at length about the importance of a win at Son Moix.

As it turns out, Ancelotti did not hesitate to shuffle his deck for the league game ahead of the second leg against Manchester City. In fact, almost his entire lineup on the night featured rotations.

Nacho Fernandez came into the lineup to partner with Antonio Rudiger at centre-back. While Mendy continued as a starter, Dani Carvajal was given a day off with Lucas Vazquez taking his place.

Aurelien Tchouameni unsurprisingly started on the night given his impending suspension for the Manchester City clash, but Toni Kroos was replaced by Luka Modric in midfield. Jude Bellingham and Federico Valverde, meanwhile, kept their places in the lineup.

Both Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo were rested in attack, and the coach deployed Joselu and Brahim Diaz in their place.

Fringe players can impress too

While none of the players who played from the opening whistle last night can be aptly called ‘fringe’, it was always an interesting opportunity to see how the backup players utilised their chance to shine.

Defensively, Nacho and Vazquez were solid as they not only held the fort with resilience but also contributed efficiently in terms of distribution and pushing forward.

Some changes worked, some did not. (Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Luka Modric was also sensational on the evening, and rightly earned a standing ovation from Son Moix in what could be his final appearance at the venue. The Croatian star recorded three key passes created one big chance and clocked over 110 passes on the night.

Brahim and Joselu, however, were not close to as influential as one would have hoped. The duo grew into the game late in the second half, but Diaz was underwhelming in the buildup and missed a golden chance to score while the striker was abysmal in the box.

Real Madrid will head into El Clasico with their lead intact

Real Madrid’s next clash in La Liga is against arch-rivals and second-placed team Barcelona in what will be a massive game from the title race perspective.

Los Blancos had an eight-point cushion ahead of kickoff, but with the Clasico ahead, all focus was on extending the same to eleven provisionally.

After all, a slip-up against Mallorca would potentially reduce the team’s lead to five points and give Barcelona a chance to cut it to two points next weekend.

As it stands, however, Real Madrid got the job done against Javier Aguirre’s men and head into Clasico with their dominant eight-point lead intact. Needless to say, it comes as a relief ahead of a daunting clash.

Three Questions

How much will Los Blancos miss Aurelien Tchouameni midweek?

Having failed to secure an advantage in the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid have everything to fight for at the Etihad Stadium midweek.

To come out on top at the opposition’s fortress will be far from easy, more so when one considers that Los Blancos will be without Aurelien Tchouameni on the night.

The Frenchman’s early booking against Pep Guardiola’s side saw him guarantee his absence for the decisive reverse fixture. Considering that he was the manager’s top choice to partner Antonio Rudiger in defence, his absence brings Ancelotti a dilemma.

Tchouameni’s masterclass against Mallorca which not only included a stunning winner but also showcased his mastery in possession, calm defensive presence and expert distribution does not help the manager’s cause.

Real Madrid have not lost a single game this season when the Frenchman has started, and their only two losses of the season came when he was unavailable as a starter. Needless to say, Ancelotti has a big void to fill in the team come Wednesday.

Should Real Madrid be worried over Jude Bellingham?

Jude Bellingham’s performance against Manchester City was not half as bad as propagated by the media. Yet, the player has only himself to blame for the same for he set the bar very high with his phenomenal start to the season.

Not firing on all cylinders. (Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Last night, the English phenom started once more for Los Blancos and dished out another decent performance. However, there is a feeling that he is missing the presence in the box that he had in the first half of the season.

Ahead of what is their biggest game of the season, Ancelotti would have hoped for his star man to deliver a statement performance.

His inability to hit the same peaks, however, could become a headache for the coach, especially with quality options like Brahim Diaz also vying for a spot in the lineup.

Is Eder Militao really ready?

There is a significant discussion going around in Madrid over Ancelotti’s backing of Eder Militao to start against Manchester City midweek. In fact, the manager did not deny the possibility of speaking in a recent press conference.

The equation, in that sense, does not add up, for Militao does not appear to be fit enough to start in a game of such proportions. Last night against Mallorca as well, Ancelotti brought the Brazilian on in stoppage time, and there is no possible way he will start the team’s next game.

Heading into the clash against Manchester City, Ancelotti’s best hope, thus, would be to rely on Nacho in defence. Any claim of using Militao in the position would appear to be nothing but mere games of the mind.

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