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Three talking points from Osasuna 0-2 Real Madrid



Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP via Getty Images

Late goals from Federico Valverde and Marco Asensio helped Real Madrid return with the spoils from Pamplona on Saturday night.

Jagoba Arrasate’s Osasuna fought valiantly against the European Champions but were helpless against the customary late surge from Ancelotti’s men.

The manager deployed a rotated lineup at El Sadar, with key names rested, keeping the clash against Liverpool in mind. Given the team’s situation in the league, the three points with a depleted squad thus come as very valuable assets for the defending champions.

The game once again showed Real Madrid’s struggle to kill off games early, yet came with some undeniable positives that prove the champion side Ancelotti has grown. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from the fixture in Pamplona.

1. A game played on one flank

If one tuned into the game between Real Madrid and Osasuna at any time, the ball seemingly lay on Real Madrid’s left flank. From start to finish, the defending champions’ strategy seemed to be centred around capitalising down Vinicius’ wing with no alternate game plan.

Karim Benzema’s absence forced Ancelotti into transferring the load onto the Brazilian winger on the night. Vinicius is, by far, one of the team’s most reliable weapons in attack, and it is only understandable that the game centred around him.

Yet, there was another significant strategy behind chasing the left flank. Jagoba Arrasate lacked a reliable right-back heading into the game and deployed a midfielder in Jon Moncayola on the right side of defence against Real Madrid.

The battle on the flank thus became one-sided, and the eventual source of all of Osasuna’s problems.

Being entrusted with the responsibility of creating, Vinicius did not disappoint. The Brazilian may have missed two big chances to score, but was potent in the buildup as he provided three key passes and completed a whopping seven dribbles in addition to creating one big chance.

It was the 22-year-old who found Federico Valverde with a well-timed cross to open the scoring at El Sadar, and even had a goal disallowed.

2. Ancelotti’s game-changing decisions

Heading into the tunnel at half-time, Real Madrid seemed starved for clear-cut chances. The visitors had managed just three shots in the opening period with one blocked attempt and just one big chance.

In contrast, the Merengues created three big chances in the second 45 minutes and recorded a staggering eight attempts in the period. The radical turnaround and injection of steam can only be attributed to Ancelotti’s smart in-game decisions.

With his approach of playing Vinicius wide not yielding full results, the Italian tactician asked the youngster to drift more centrally after the break. The new system saw David Alaba push high up the field, almost as a winger, and also allowed Rodrygo to be more involved in the proceedings.

The new dynamic stumped Arrasate’s men and saw the European Champions assert their dominance on the counter. It was this approach, in part, that caused the dramatic improvement in Output.

In addition to his tweak in formation, Ancelotti’s substitutions against Osasuna worked like a charm.

Marco Asensio came on for Dani Ceballos after the hour mark and improved the potency of Los Blancos’ counterattacks with an injection of pace. The Spaniard eventually got the second goal of the night to his name after a smart run behind the defence.

Game-changers. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

The manager also gave young Alvaro Rodriguez a chance off the bench, and the Castilla striker did not disappoint.

Despite being given just six minutes, he found Vinicius for the team’s disallowed goal late in the game. Undeterred by his missed assist, he provided Asensio with the perfect assist just seconds later to seal the result.

3. Ready, rested and raring for the UCL

With the league game at El Sadar in their pocket, Real Madrid now turn their attention to the most important title defence- the UEFA Champions League.

The Galacticos‘ first knockout fixture of the European competition is against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Ancelotti’s men will thus immediately pack their bags and travel to England, with a tough test at Anfield in store.

The three points against Osasuna send Real Madrid to Liverpool in high spirits. More importantly, the squad make the trip to Anfield with some of its biggest names completely rested and fresh.

Karim Benzema and Aurelien Tchouameni will almost certainly return to the starting lineup midweek, while Toni Kroos also has a good chance of returning in time.

Needless to say, pulling off a 2-0 win over Osasuna with the three stars missing is a massive result and confidence booster.

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Three talking points from Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid | La Liga



Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid fell to a 2-1 defeat against Barcelona on their first trip to Spotify Camp Nou after more than a year.

The Catalans had not won against the Merengues at home since 2018 ahead of the game but a clutch goal from Franck Kessie helped them turn around the record.

Vinicius Jr opened the scoring early in the game by forcing an error and own goal from Ronald Araujo. The hosts levelled the score in the 45th minute through Sergi Roberto, before the winner arrived in stoppage time.

The game was not without its share of controversy as Real Madrid had a goal disallowed for offside that Ancelotti felt was unfair. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from the fourth Clasico of the season.

1. Quality of full-backs

Real Madrid have etched their names into history as one of the most deadly counter-attacking teams in world football. Their pacey transitions and shifts of play have traditionally progressed through the wing with unreal speed to catch the opponent off-guard even in a momentary lapse in concentration.

Needless to say, the full-backs have always worked in tandem with the team’s wingers to make such speedy counters possible. The glaring problem at Real Madrid currently is that their full-backs do not provide half as much as they need to.

Los Blancos’ counterattack now seemingly consists of only Vinicius Jr on the left wing making a quick transition to find Karim Benzema. With just one outlet, it is difficult for the men in white to be effective.

The story at Spotify Camp Nou was very similar. Dani Carvajal started as the right-back and had a good showing defensively. Yet, he was virtually absent in the final third and left Real Madrid’s right-wing lifeless. In ninety minutes, he managed no crosses or long balls and had just one key pass.

The story at left-back was equally, if not more abysmal. Nacho Fernandez was the candidate deployed in the position and could also not manage a single cross, long ball or key pass on the night. He was eventually substituted for Ferland Mendy but the Frenchman could not do much either.

The difference in the quality of full-backs between Barcelona and Ancelotti’s side is gaping. The Catalans blazed through the wings on the night with Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde who constantly got forward in attack to stretch the men in white. In response, Real Madrid had nothing.

2. A dead right-wing and lack of intensity

Carvajal had a forgettable game (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

It is imperative for any top football team to have the resources to attack both wings, for it is the constant switching of play that triggers errors from the opposition. For a club like Real Madrid to not have such resources is criminal.

The game against Barcelona was completely predictable given that the Merengues’ right wing was nonexistent. Any attack, almost surely, had to come down Vinicius’ wing and this made Barcelona’s defensive work easier.

Dani Carvajal was barely involved in the final third against the Catalans. That, coupled with Federico Valverde’s atrocious showing as the right-winger removed one side of the field from Real Madrid’s game.

Valverde made just 27 passes in 76 minutes and failed to make a single cross on the night. Further, he recorded just one key pass and one accurate long ball in El Clasico.

When Marco Asensio came on for Los Blancos, the equation completely turned around. The winger came on as a direct replacement for Valverde and happened to score the disallowed goal that was millimetres from giving Real Madrid three points.

More importantly, the move for the aforementioned goal was completely down the right flank, a testament to the alarming situation.

3. Goodbye La Liga?

When the clock at Spotify Camp Nou struck 81 minutes, the race for La Liga seemed to be on. Real Madrid had just scored a possible winner and had cut short their deficit with Barcelona to just six points.

Ten minutes later, the scoreline read 2-1 in favour of the hosts. Their lead atop the league standings was suddenly twelve points with just 12 games to go.

History is witness that counting out Real Madrid does not fare well. However, it is difficult to surpass the supposition that the 12-point gap is too wide to bridge.

Los Blancos will continue to fight in the league, but Ancelotti will likely preserve his weapons for the UEFA Champions League where they face a bigger chance at glory.

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