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Three talking points from Osasuna 0-2 Real Madrid

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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 ahead of Manchester City vs Real Madrid

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Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The big Champions League nights seldom disappoint, and the first-leg quarterfinal results last week in this year’s edition were no different.

The four games cumulatively saw 18 goals scored, none of which were overwhelmingly convincing, thus leaving the ground level ahead of the decisive second legs.

Of the four fixtures that unfolded last week, the clash between Real Madrid and Manchester City was the most entertaining, by far.

An enthralling 3-3 draw saw both Los Blancos and Pep Guardiola’s men pull off mini-comebacks on the night before they eventually split the spoils and left everything to be decided at the Etihad Stadium.

Tomorrow, the two European giants face off again in Manchester in a game that will grant the victor a spot in the semifinal of this season’s Champions League.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Manchester City vs Real Madrid.

New year, new team

As Real Madrid head to the Etihad to take part in the decisive second leg, they invariably confront some horrific memories at the arena.

For starters, the men in white have never beaten Manchester City at the Etihad in an official game. Of the teams’ last three meetings at the venue over the past four years, City have always come out on top at home.

Los Blancos’ most recent recollection of the venue does not help in any way either. After all, they headed to England last season after a draw in the first leg at home, only to be destroyed by a 4-0 margin by Pep Guardiola’s men.

Fast forward one year, the Spanish giants once again failed to secure an advantage in the home fixture. To qualify for the semifinal, they must not only conquer the Etihad’s curse but also get past the ghosts of last year.

A lot has changed in Carlo Ancelotti’s setup since the two sides last met. Karim Benema’s departure, Jude Bellingham’s arrival, and the rise of new stars in goal and defence are just some of the innumerable variations that have grown into the Madrid-based entity.

Ancelotti’s primary goal tomorrow, thus, should be to keep the morale and belief of his men high. It is a new year, a new team, and history plays no part in how the game plays out.

The defensive situation

Rudiger and Nacho likely to start in defence. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)

Ancelotti was faced with a defensive dilemma ahead of Real Madrid’s first leg last week. Of the available options, he opted to go with Aurelien Tchouameni to partner Antonio Rudiger, purely because of the Frenchman’s prowess in aerial duels.

While Tchouameni did do a good job, he is suspended for tomorrow’s clash leaving the Italian coach in a tricky situation in defence.

His Plan B, Eder Militao, is not fit enough to start, and everything indicates that Nacho will be the player to start alongside the German.

Tomorrow’s game at Etihad will be a personal battle for Rudiger, for he was dropped the last time Real Madrid played at the venue and watched his team’s destruction from the sidelines.

Now arriving as the leader of defence, he will make it his objective to prove that Ancelotti’s decision to drop him a year ago was costly. After all, he has efficiently defended against Erling Haaland in all his meetings with the Norwegian.

An equal share of the spotlight will shine on Nacho, whose aerial ability will be tested, and Ferland Mendy, who suffered against Bernardo Silva a week ago.

Clarity in approach

Real Madrid differ from other top European clubs in one primary respect. Unlike the goal of competitors to play a beautiful game, dominate the proceedings and assert authority, Los Blancos purely concern themselves with the result.

Be it ugly or an exquisitely crafted display, the win and qualification are all that Ancelotti aims for. The aforementioned approach has largely pioneered the team’s success over the years.

Heading into tomorrow’s clash, it is thus imperative that Real Madrid have the right idea of what to expect.

It will be close to impossible to dominate proceedings against a well-oiled Pep Guardiola team, nor will it be simple to boast of possession. As such, the Merengues will likely be forced to defend deep for large parts of the game.

What will be critical, however, are the few chances they get on the counter-attack. The likes of Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo Goes, Jude Bellingham and Federico Valverde will be crucial if the team is to hit on the break with efficiency, and their form will account for a large part of the result.

The goal tomorrow, thus, must not be to dominate the game but purely to walk out victors. It might not turn out to be beautiful, but will surely be memorable should it work out.

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