Three talking points ahead of Valencia vs Real Madrid
A trip to Mestalla to take on Valencia is the next agenda on Real Madrid’s calendar after their elimination from Europe. The men in white take on the 15th-placed side in La Liga on Sunday and all eyes will be on the version of the team that turns up for the fixture.
Valencia have been in freefall over the past few years. From one of the regular names in the league’s top six, they now find themselves battling relegation. In fact, there is a chance that a defeat on Sunday sees them return to the relegation zone.
Los Che have won just ten of their 34 games this season, losing 17 times in the process. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Valencia vs Real Madrid.
1. Facing the reality
Sunday evening could have been Real Madrid’s chance to return to the field of play as the UEFA Champions League finalists. With the first leg against Man City poised at 1-1, a win of any margin would have put them into a spot in the final two and given them a good chance of defending their crown.
Not many foresaw the result at Etihad coming. Los Blancos were blown away in ninety minutes to one of their heaviest defeats in recent years. More than the volume of goals, however, it was the manner of defeat that plunged the deepest dagger through the team’s heart.
Los Blancos must now finish the season with just the Copa del Rey as a direct scalp this season. Their inability to achieve glory in either La Liga or the Champions League makes it one of their most disappointing seasons in recent history, at least in terms of silverware.
The moment has now come for Real Madrid to come to terms with the harsh reality. Their flaws cannot be overlooked. What is in their hands is the chance to finish the season strong, and that will be the objective on Sanday.
The men in white must turn up tomorrow as the team that made the semifinals of football’s most difficult competition and not one that fell to a 4-0 defeat on the biggest stage. Mentality is everything in football, and Los Blancos have historically proven to be the kings of it.
2. The chance to take a deeper dive
Four games remain before the squad disperses for the summer break. There is nothing that rides on the results to come sparing the team’s reputation, and that gives Carlo Ancelotti room to experiment.
Real Madrid have multiple decisions to take in the weeks to come, from prioritising signings to managing the negotiations, renewing existing stars, and ensuring the right departures.
Ancelotti thus has the chance to take a deeper dive into his squad over the next few weeks and ensure that the right decisions are taken.
The Italian tactician will likely shuffle his cards starting tomorrow night and give minutes to those who have not seen many all season. This will enable the management to understand the depth available and how urgently reinforcements are needed in various positions.
Moreover, it will help the manager identify the weak spots in his setup that compromised their run this season and plan for the campaign ahead.
3. Objective Pichichi
Reports earlier today revealed that Real Madrid had two objectives heading into the final stretch of the season. Finishing second on the league table was understandably the first focus, but the second objective had to do with a specific individual.
Karim Benzema has not enjoyed the best of seasons in 2022/23. Yet, the Frenchman sits second on the list of La Liga’s top scorers and is only behind Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski.
Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid see it as an objective to ensure that the Pichichi Trophy comes home to the Santiago Bernabeu. The men in white are thus expected to go all out in the games to come.
Benzema currently sits on 17 strikes this season, and only four goals separate him from the Polish striker. With four games still to go, there is enough room for Los Blancos to turn the tables around.
The Pichichi Trophy will go a long way in reinforcing Benzema’s confidence ahead of what could be his final season at the club. With reports all over Spain focussing on Real Madrid’s hunt for a new striker, the Frenchman needs such a morale booster more than ever before.
Real Madrid vs Athletic Club: End of an era, farewells, tight race for second place
Real Madrid will walk down the tunnel of Santiago Bernabeu one last time this season on Sunday night. The men in white are pitted against Athletic Club on their final match-day, and the game will not be an easy affair by any means.
The Basque side sit in seventh place on the league standings with 50 points in 37 appearances. However, their qualification for the UEFA Conference League is in danger with Osasuna lurking close behind with an equal number of points.
Anything less than a win could prove insufficient for the visitors and it is clear that they arrive at Santiago Bernabeu with nothing less than a win on their agenda. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao.
1. The end of an era for the number 9 shirt?
The grey area around Karim Benzema’s future has only widened in recent days. From a situation where his continuity at Real Madrid was taken for granted, it did not take long for the Frenchman’s story to enter a steep deviation.
An economically tempting proposal from Saudi Arabia had Benzema seriously contemplating a move away from Santiago Bernabeu, and reports stated that his departure from the Spanish club was close to complete.
The world, thus, looked in anticipation of his next official interaction with the media. The Ballon d’Or winner publicly addressed the topic for the first time earlier this week, and it is safe to say that his words gave nothing away.
Benzema neither confirmed nor completely refuted the rumours of his exit to the media. His situation is balanced on the blade of a knife and could tip in either direction.
In that sense, there is a good chance that tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu is Karim Benzema’s final game for Real Madrid. If the striker does choose to change loyalties, it would mark the end of an era for the team’s number nine position.
It has been over a decade since the Frenchman took over the prestigious kit. He has played 647 games for the club so far in his career, scoring a stunning 353 goals in the process. Of them, 98 have been match-winning contributions.
2. A day of farewells
Earlier today, Real Madrid announced the departure of Marco Asensio from the club. The Spanish winger appears set to sign for PSG for the 2023-24 season and will bid adieu on Sunday. However, he will not be the only player playing his final game for the club tomorrow.
Nacho Fernandez has been a critical part of Real Madrid’s success in recent years but is another name close to sealing an exit. The defender is not satisfied with the playing time under his belt at the club and has not yet responded to the renewal offer on his table.
With his contract running out in less than 30 days, he appears closer to leaving than staying. One can expect an announcement from Nacho on Sunday night after the game at the Bernabeu, which could be his final game in white.
The situation with Dani Ceballos is quite similar. The Spanish midfielder is still undecided on his future, although there is still a slight chance he could continue at the club. Staying on the subject of players making their final appearance, however, he could be one on the list.
Away from the stories of incomplete renewal negotiations, Mariano Diaz is one player whose departure from the club is confirmed. Ferland Mendy, Jesus Vallejo, Alvaro Odriozola and Eden Hazard are some of the other candidates well-placed to make departures, although nothing can be said for sure.
3. A tight race for second place
There is not much to play for on Sunday night except for the emotional tag of it being the season’s final game. Yet, the men in white will not be without an objective against Athletic Club.
Los Blancos sit on 77 points in 37 league appearances this season and just have a one-point lead over third-placed Atletico Madrid. Needless to say, they must be vary of their position on the standings for any complacency could see them drop down the ladder.
Diego Simeone’s men take on fifth-placed Villarreal at the same time as Real Madrid’s game against Athletic Club. Even if Carlo Ancelotti’s men settle for a draw against the Basque side, the second place would be Atletico Madrid’s to lose.
With both games kicking off simultaneously, there will be nerves throughout the ninety minutes in Madrid. One can only hope for action-filled games to keep the anxiety and adrenaline high.