A Real Madrid team without Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric, David Alaba, Aurelien Tchouameni, and Lucas Vazquez travels to Villarreal for a Copa del Rey game that could define their season. The odds are against the European Champions, but it is often in such situations that the team produce their best football.
After losing the Spanish Super Cup title to Barcelona last weekend, the objective in the Los Blancos‘ dressing room will be to start afresh and pursue the cup. After their struggle in the Round of 32 against Cacereno, the men in white take on Quique Setien’s men for the second time in 12 days.
As the gruelling game nears, Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Villarreal vs Real Madrid.
1. The curse of La Ceramica
There is something about the aura of Estadio de La Ceramica that tames the lion in Real Madrid time and time again. Every time the Merengues step onto the field against Villarreal, they instantly face the heat.
Real Madrid’s last league clash came against the Yellow Submarines at the same venue, and the result was a testament to the history between the sides.
Los Blancos were totally outplayed over the span of ninety minutes by Setien’s side as they struggled to get onto the attack even after going down. Villarreal scored the opener, and while Karim Benzema pulled one back from the penalty spot, the visitors conceded a penalty just seconds later.
The last time Real Madrid won at the Ceramica was in 2017 when Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale found the back of the net. One is playing the final years of his career in Qatar while the other has retired from football, yet, Los Blancos have not tasted victory at the stadium.
The momentum heading into the game is clearly on Villarreal’s side as they aim to down Carlo Ancelotti for the second time in two weeks. The spell must thus be broken, and there is no better time than Thursday night.
2. The alarming right-back situation
The injury to Lucas Vazquez in the team’s clash against Valencia saw the player ruled out for the foreseeable future. He is expected to miss six weeks of action after injuring his ankle, and the manager’s idea was to start Dani Carvajal for the coming games.
In the buildup to Thursday’s clash, Carvajal suffered a muscular issue. The latest development sees the right-back ruled out for at least two games including the clash against Villarreal.
The focus lights now shift to Ancelotti who has a big decision to make. Staring at a must-win clash, the Italian tactician must either take the bet on Vinicius Tobias who is yet to play for the first team since his move from Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer.
The other option would be to deploy Nacho Fernandez or Alvaro Odriozola as a right-back. Both options present their own set of problems, it appears, as the former is not a natural right-back while the latter has played just 51 minutes all season.
Ancelotti has included Tobias in his squad to travel to Villarreal and thus has all three options at his disposal. Given that the opponents boast names like Yeremy Pino and Alberto Moreno on their left wing, Ancelotti’s decision in this regard could prove decisive.
3. Pressure like never before
Getting onto a chain of poor results is devastating for any team’s season. Real Madrid seldom find themselves at the risk of slipping into a vicious cycle, but they are dangerously close at the moment.
None of the Merengues‘ performances since the restart of club football have been convincing. The wins against both Cacereno and Real Valladolid required moments of magic, and the clash against Valencia ended in a win only after penalties. The other two matches finished in defeats to Barcelona and Villarreal.
Keeping the recent results in perspective, Thursday’s game could be far more important than just another knockout game. Another defeat at La Ceramica could have implications on the team’s belief and confidence. Once affected, that alone could destroy Real Madrid’s league and UCL campaigns.
The pressure is real as the midweek clash nears. Can Real Madrid break the curse of La Ceramica or will it be a third defeat in four games for the European champions?
Three talking points ahead of Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid | La Liga
Six games, six wins. The story for Real Madrid at the start of the new season could not be sweeter, or so it appears.
However, that could not be further away from the truth. Los Blancos have been lacklustre in most of their wins, finding resources only in the dying minutes of games to take home three points.
While the fighting spirit is a positive, making a habit of taking games deep certainly is not.
After their nervy win over Union Berlin in the Champions League, Real Madrid face their biggest challenge of the season so far – Atletico Madrid. The game against Diego Simeone’s side kicks off late on Sunday night and could prove to be decisive on the leaderboard.
Carlo Ancelotti and Simeone have enjoyed a hard-fought rivalry over the years as managers with shares almost equally split.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Italian boasts of a mild edge over the Argentine with eight wins in head-to-heads compared to Simeone’s seven.
The head-to-head statistics between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are more skewed, however, with Los Rojiblancos winning just four times to Real Madrid’s nine of the last 20.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid.
The evergreen derby
Derbies are often the most tasty fixtures in the world of football. Of them, the Madrid derby is one that never loses spice.
Los Blancos and Los Rojiblancos have not seen eye to eye in recent years. While they have maintained diplomatic relationships to display on the fore, there is a whole lot more going on behind the scenes between the Spanish giants.
Earlier this year, the Galacticos broke the non-aggression pact with Atleti and openly began scouting and signing players from the Rojiblanco youth camp. That has only added to the existing friction between the two clubs.
Sunday’s derby will thus be an interesting one. After all, both teams have had contrasting starts to their seasons and are equally hungry for the big game.
The clash at Civitas Metropolitano will not be easy by any means.
In their last 14 appearances at the Atletico Madrid stadium, Los Blancos have lost five times, drawn six times and won just thrice. However, they did win at the stadium last season.
Expect no dearth of passion, quality football and tactical manoeuvres when the local rivals lock horns on Sunday.
The two doubts
Two of Real Madrid’s most important stars were potentially at the risk of missing the game against Atletico Madrid, albeit to different extents.
Vinicius Jr has missed Real Madrid’s last three games through injury. The Brazilian was expected to miss eight after the initial blow and a return against Atletico Madrid seemed impossible.
Magically, Vini shortened his recovery time to just half of that initially reported. Carlo Ancelotti revealed in his pre-game press conference that the Brazilian is now 100% fit and that he would travel with the squad.
The only question that remains is whether he starts or is rested out of precaution.
Jude Bellingham, meanwhile, has been the team’s most important player this season. Without him, Real Madrid would have lost 11 points so far.
The new signing was immense once again in the team’s UEFA Champions League fixture midweek, scoring a late winner for his side. Unfortunately, he suffered a stomach bug on Friday and was forced to leave training early.
The Italian tactician confirmed in his presser that Bellingham will play tomorrow. Just like in the case of Vini, the doubt is whether his participation will be as a starter or off the bench.
Need for finesse
There was really only one big takeaway from Real Madrid’s 1-0 win over Union Berlin in the UEFA Champions League – the atrocious finishing.
Los Blancos took 32 shots on the night, seven of which were on target. They recorded five big chances, missing four of them and hitting the woodwork twice.
Against a defensively resilient unit like Atletico Madrid, such slack finishing will not suffice. Ancelotti’s men must pounce on the few chances they create, especially considering that they will be hard to come by.
All eyes, thus, will be on Joselu and Rodrygo Goes. The duo both had rough nights against Union Berlin and will look to turn their fortunes around with a clinical show tomorrow.