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Three talking points ahead of Villarreal vs Real Madrid | Copa del Rey

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Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

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

No Carvajal and Vazquez for the game (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

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?

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Three talking points ahead of RCD Mallorca vs Real Madrid

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Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

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

No Benzema and Militao (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

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