Three talking points from Real Madrid 2-1 Osasuna
As Carlo Ancelotti watched Karim Benzema collect the Copa del Rey trophy on Saturday night, one could see an amalgamation of feelings. The Italian tactician was buoyant with the joy of having finished on the right side of a hard-fought battle. Yet, there was a certain seriousness in his expression, as to say ‘It does not end here.’
Such has been the story of Real Madrid’s past two weeks. The Club have played out their league games with half-interest, knowing full well that only the three games to be played in May mattered to their season. The first of the three, now, is in the bag.
Los Blancos were made to work hard by Osasuna who even pulled level once in the game to tighten the screw. Yet, the Galacticos always appeared to be in control of the proceedings and the win was completely deserved.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid 2-1 Osasuna.
1. Champions at last
The Copa del Rey is one title that has found it difficult to arrive at Santiago Bernabeu. The Spanish Cup is indeed the least important of the three major competitions Real Madrid participate in every season, but for them to go close to a decade without winning was startling.
The 14-time European Cup winners last won the Cup in 2014. In the gap that has passed since they won the UEFA Champions League four times with no success in the domestic knockout competition.
Everything changed for the good on Saturday.
Both Real Madrid and Osasuna were deserved finalists in their own right, for the former overcame Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Villarreal en route to the finale whilst the latter represented the grit and passion of Spanish football. When they locked horns, an enthralling fixture lit the Estadio de La Cartuja.
The 2-1 win that unfolded saw Real Madrid lift their 20th Copa del Rey title in history and only Barcelona (33) and Athletic Bilbao (23) can boast of having more.
The trophy completes the cabinet of veterans like Toni Kroos who waited close to nine years for the missing piece. It also means that Carlo Ancelotti has won almost everything there is to win in the Spanish capital over the two years of his second stint so far.
2. The Golden Boy
Rodrygo Goes was named the man of the match on Saturday night for his match-winning brace and nobody could have staked a higher claim on the award. The Brazilian may not have been the best player for the ninety minutes, but it was his goalscoring instinct on the night that brought home the silverware.
The Brazilian did not need more than 120 seconds into the game to register the opener on the night. Rodrygo’s ball across the field to Vinicius was timed superbly and created chaos in the Osasuna defence to begin the move.
Vini took down Moncayola with ease and played in a perfect cut-back to Rodrygo who completed the formality with a good finish.
Just 12 minutes after Osasuna’s equaliser, the youngster was again at the right place at the right time to restore the one-goal cushion for Real Madrid. This time, it was the deflection of Kroos’ effort that fell kindly for him and the protege whipped it into the back of the net.
Rodrygo may not be an undisputed starter for Carlo Ancelotti yet, but he has proven to have what it takes to deliver under pressure on numerous occasions. The 2023 final of the Copa del Rey will go down in history as a display of pure class from the man of the match.
3. No time to celebrate
The homecoming of the Spanish Cup does indeed call for celebration, but Real Madrid will have to postpone the festivities by a few weeks. After all, last night’s clash was not even the Merengues‘ most important fixture of the week.
In just over 48 hours, the men in white play host to Pep Guardiola’s men in the first leg of the UCL semifinal and it is clear that the entire squad’s attention is transfixed on the European game.
Manchester City are perhaps the most in-form team in Europe at the moment. With players like Erling Haaland, Jack Grealish and Kevin de Bruyne entering the clash at the peak of their powers, it could well be Madrid’s most demanding game all season.
The Copa del Rey win provides Carlo Ancelotti’s men with momentum and belief. However, they cannot afford to lift their heads and celebrate the event until the bigger job in hand is completed.
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.