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Three talking points ahead of SC Braga vs Real Madrid | UEFA Champions League



Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images

European football writes some of the best storylines in the sport. The struggle of lower-ranked teams to secure qualification, the heartbreak for top teams year after year, emphatic comebacks and fascinating matchups, the UEFA Champions League has it all.

The story of SC Braga and their path to the competition is equally moving. The Portuguese club are not usually accustomed to playing at the highest level, yet, live to see the special days after their manager secured a UCL spot for the team for only the third time in their history.

To face Real Madrid in the competition, thus, is a big moment for the players and fans alike. Braga do not have anything to lose on the night, and it is often such carefree teams that pose the most dangerous threats.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side must thus be wary during the game in Portugal tomorrow. If they learnt anything from the game against Union Berlin, it is to never underestimate an opponent in the UCL.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of SC Braga vs Real Madrid on Tuesday night.

Changes in attack

Carlo Ancelotti’s side may have pointed the finger at a number of parties after Saturday’s draw to Sevilla. However, the fact of the matter remains that there were gaping holes in their performance on the night.

Los Blancos defended in unison but failed to attack comprehensively against the Seville-based side. A big part of the blame, unsurprisingly, falls on the attacking duo on the night.

Both Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo Goes started the game at Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan at the weekend and appeared clueless as to their role on the field.

The former, who is normally the team’s protagonist on the field, struggled with his normal dribbles and lacked the cutting edge in front of goal. Further, his combination play was sub-par.

Rodrygo, meanwhile, has been enduring a longer lean patch than his compatriot. The Brazilian protege has had the most shots and chances of any Real Madrid star this season, yet has failed to find the back of the net.

Carlo Ancelotti must thus look for change tomorrow night, and it could well begin with changing the personnel. Joselu would be deserving of a start against Braga.

Back to winning ways

Shared points after a chaotic game. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images)

Carlo Ancelotti’s men have not been at their lethal best this season, yet, have found ways to win more often than not.

Even on nights when they seemingly do not click, they have gone through to secure three points through individual brilliance. It may not be beautiful, but it does the trick for Los Blancos.

Of their 12 games across all competitions this season, the Merengues have dropped points only twice – the first in the loss to Atletico Madrid and the second last weekend against Sevilla.

The goal on Tuesday night, thus, will be to return to winning ways at any cost. After all, the Galacticos are a highly momentum-dependant team and would like to turn things around the moment they threaten to go awry.

El Clasico is just around the corner, for Real Madrid travel to Monjtuic to face Barcelona later this week.

Considering that tomorrow’s clash is the team’s final game before the big fixture away from home, getting back on track with a win becomes more crucial than ever before.

Will Ancelotti rotate?

The recent international break saw club football away from the big screens for close to two weeks. In an ideal world, that would have meant rest for the team’s top guns, but the world of football is far from as forgiving.

The truth of the matter is that several of Real Madrid’s key stars are fatigued with the hectic schedule. Players like Federico Valverde, Vinicius Jr, and Rodrygo Goes even more so, considering the long journey from America they had to undertake not so long ago.

The spotlight thus falls on Ancelotti and his man-management. What does the coach deem to be right – to go all out for the UCL win and virtually secure qualification or to rest his big guns on the night in preparation for El Clasico?

“Rotations ahead of El Clásico? No, but I won’t use the same XI we used vs Sevilla. I have to evaluate the players who are tired after the break, some took knocks against Sevilla… so we will see,” Ancelotti said about his team.

If indeed he opts to shuffle his cards, what combination of veterans and youth will drive the midfield the best? Will he start both Modric and Kroos together after the bitter experience against Atletico Madrid?

Can Bellingham be rested without impacting the result on the field? Who can replace the full-backs?

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



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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