Fresh off their narrow win over Getafe, Real Madrid travel to the Stadion Wojska Polskiego in Warsaw to take on Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League.
The month of October has gone smoothly so far for the European Champions. They have picked up seven of a possible nine points and have found ways to grind out wins even under adverse conditions. Yet, there is a feeling that Real Madrid have not yet hit top gear and Carlo Ancelotti will look to change that ahead of the upcoming El Clasico.
The hosts are on a poor run of form themselves, having won just one of their last four games across all competitions. They currently sit second in their domestic league with four wins in five games but are winless in their last two European encounters.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid’s fourth UCL game of the season.
1. Wholesale rotations
That Real Madrid have one of Europe’s finest squads is a fact well known. Yet, there has not come a situation so far in the season where Carlo Ancelotti has been forced to rotate the team.
The month of October was known to bear a hectic schedule and it is fair to say that the toughest fixture of them all for Real Madrid is El Clasico. With the big clash less than a week away, the manager will look to rest his trump cards while giving a chance to subordinate players.
Thibaut Courtois will be unavailable for the game in Ukraine, thus giving Andriy Lunin yet another start between the sticks. Nacho Fernandez could get a start in central defence while Lucas Vazquez is likely to play as the right-back.
Eduardo Camavinga has been Los Blancos’ most disappointing midfielder this season. Tuesday’s clash comes as the perfect opportunity for the youngster to start and prove his doubters wrong. He could start alongside Aurelien Tchouameni and Toni Kroos, thus keeping Luka Modric fresh for the Clasico.
Karim Benzema was rested against Getafe and will start on Tuesday in the hope of regaining his match fitness and lost touch. However, Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard could start in place of Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr respectively.
2. Spotlight on the forward line
While changes are expected all over the field, there will be a special emphasis to see how the forward line performs in Warsaw after their underwhelming display at the weekend.
The focus will be on Karim Benzema primarily because the Ballon d’Or contender has struggled to get going so far this season. A combination of poor form and fitness concerns have overseen his sub-par start, and he will look to lead from the front once again when Real Madrid take on Shakhtar Donetsk.
Meanwhile, Asensio has been promising in his cameos this season and could produce fireworks if he starts on the night. The game could also see Hazard receive another chance to prove his mettle, though that train may well have sailed.
With Barcelona next on the calendar, Real Madrid will have to find their clinical finishing boots quickly.
3. The comfortable position in the UCL
Real Madrid are comfortably placed in their UEFA Champions League group with nine points in three games, five points above the second-placed team, Shakhtar Donetsk. They are followed closely by RB Leipzig with three, while Celtic sit at the bottom with just one point.
A win over the Ukrainian side would all but guarantee Los Blancos a table-top finish and give them at least a six-point lead over the competition. However, the men in white are under no pressure to win Tuesday’s game.
Even a loss in Poland would not hurt Real Madrid’s chances of topping their group. Needless to say, Ancelotti could look to use the situation to his advantage and focus on the more important game just beyond the horizon.
Not only the starting lineup but the tactics and substitutions against Shakhtar will be made keeping El Clasico in mind. While the suggestion may sound trivial, such intricacies often have a massive bearing on the result and Real Madrid will hope their prioritization reaps the reward on Sunday.
Three talking points ahead of RCD Mallorca vs Real Madrid
Real Madrid have seldom struggled against RCD Mallorca in recent years. The men in white have scored a whopping 15 goals in their last four games against the Palma-based side and their last loss versus them came back in 2019.
If this season’s numbers are anything to go by, however, it would be wrong to overlook Javier Aguirre’s side. Mallorca have won seven of their nineteen La Liga games so far and sit in tenth place with 25 points.
While they have not scored a lot this campaign, they have conceded the fourth-least goals in the Spanish top flight and have an excellent defensive record.
Real Madrid play Mallorca before Barcelona’s game on Sunday and have a chance to reduce the deficit at the top of the table to two points temporarily if they can win at Son Moix.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Mallorca vs Real Madrid.
1. Tchouameni time again?
Aurelien Tchouameni spent close to a month on the sidelines after hobbling off injured in Real Madrid’s clash against Villarreal last month.
In the defensive midfielder’s absence, Carlo Ancelotti was forced to patch the void with unconventional options including Dani Ceballos, Eduardo Camavinga and Toni Kroos as the pivot.
The Frenchman finally made his awaited comeback to the squad in the team’s game against Valencia midweek. As he was returning from a relatively long time on the sidelines, Ancelotti preferred to have him start on the bench.
Tchouameni eventually entered the field in the 66th minute of the game when Toni Kroos asked to be substituted out for precaution. In his 24 minutes on the field, the youngster was almost flawless with 97% passes completed and 100% accurate long balls.
As Los Blancos gear up to play their second game in three days, the time could be right to re-incorporate the 23-year-old into the starting lineup. After all, Tchouameni has been one of Real Madrid’s most consistent players this season and it is glaringly clear that they have missed him in recent weeks.
2. Two more casualties
The men in white produced 90 minutes of high-quality football against Los Che on Thursday and reduced the gap with Barcelona to a mere five points. However, the cost of the win was far more than what the manager would have liked to pay.
In return for the three points, Real Madrid saw Karim Benzema and Eder Militao leave the field with injuries to rub salt into Ancelotti’s fresh wounds.
The captain is expected to miss the next two games at least, leaving his team once again without a central striker. In Benzema’s absence, Ancelotti will have to put on his thinking hat and field a forward line that not only creates threats but also has the cutting edge to convert them.
Militao is also unavailable for Sunday’s game. With the Brazilian centre-back ruled out, Real Madrid will likely field a combination of Antonio Rudiger and Nacho Fernandez against Mallorca. After all, David Alaba is also returning fresh from injury and might not be fit to start the game.
3. Can Camavinga convince again?
It is almost criminal that a club of Real Madrid’s stature do not have a natural backup for the left-back position.
Ferland Mendy has been Ancelotti’s most preferred position in the player throughout the season. David Alaba was seen as a possible backup option, and though the Austrian International is capable of playing that role, he does not fancy the left-back position anymore.
When Mendy limped off injured in Real Madrid’s game against Atletico Madrid, Eduardo Camavinga thus emerged as a surprise option to fill his shoes. The youngster started the next two games at left-back and did a reasonable job, even earning praise from the manager.
With Tchouameni back running for the Merengues, the left-back role is the only available vacancy for the French International to claim a starting spot.
With Alaba returning, if Camavinga wishes for continuity as a starter, he must produce another exceptional display on Sunday and stake claim as the left-back until Mendy returns.