Three talking points from Real Madrid 2-3 Villarreal
The story of Federico Valverde and Alex Baena is the centre of attention of the media on Sunday morning. Yet, that does not take light away from the fact that Real Madrid virtually dissolved any remaining La Liga title hopes with their 2-3 defeat to Villarreal.
Carlo Ancelotti shuffled his cards and took the gamble with a rotated lineup. With the tough fixture nestled between two more weighted games, one cannot blame the manager for doing so. As it turned out, the rotated side was just not good enough for Quique Setien’s men.
The domestic league already appeared to be a lost cause for the Merengues, and there are no doubts remaining after Saturday’s result. Barcelona have the chance to go 15 points clear on Monday night, and with just ten games to go, a comeback is unlikely.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points from Real Madrid 2-3 Villarreal.
1. Taste of their own medicine
Real Madrid under Ancelotti have overseen some of football’s finest comeback victories. These wins span across the Champions League, Copa del Rey and La Liga and involve some of football’s elite clubs.
Last season, Los Blancos tore apart Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, and Chelsea in inspiring comebacks on their way to the title. The story this season has been no different.
Real Madrid did the same with Liverpool at Anfield. From 2-0 down to 5-2 up, they made the defenders in red look like novices. Last week, they took down Xavi’s Barcelona in a 4-0 demolition to complete a special comeback in the Spanish Cup.
Yet, Villarreal are a club Real Madrid have struggled against in recent years and the trend continued last night. Not only did the men in white lose but they were given a taste of their own medicine – the bitter pill of being at the receiving end of a Remontada.
Ancelotti’s men took the lead twice on the night, yet fell to a painful defeat. Asensio’s shot deflected off Pau Torres in the 16th minute to put the hosts ahead, but Samuel Chukwueze levelled in scintillating fashion just 23 minutes later.
Three minutes after the restart, Vinicius Jr dribbled past the defenders in yellow and put the ball past Reina only for Jose Luis Morales to level once more with a neat finish.
The final blow on the night was delivered by Chukwueze, the rightful man of the match, with a stunning curling effort past Thibaut Courtois. Villarreal thus completed the comeback over the hosts at the Santiago Bernabeu and inflicted a serious blow on any title hopes remaining.
2. The fated left flank
The left-back department has to be a matter of serious concern heading into the summer transfer window. It has become the norm for opposition to target Real Madrid down their Achilles Heel in recent weeks and it is no longer possible to turn a blind eye.
Ferland Mendy has been under severe criticism this season for his subpar contributions in the final third. Many doubt the Frenchman’s ability to reach the level required at the Spanish capital with the club even considering his exit. Yet, the situation without him is far worse at the moment.
Ancelotti has no direct replacements for the injured left-back and deployed Nacho Fernandez to take over duties on the left against Villarreal. For 90 minutes at the Bernabeu, the Spanish defender was smoked.
Chukwueze made a laughing stock of Nacho who spent the entire game chasing after the dynamic and skilful winger. He made just one tackle, one interception and two clearances on the night and went on to lose four of his five fuels. Further, he was dribbled past four times on the night and lost possession six times.
Villarreal’s first goal was all about the lifeless left flank’s defensive concerns. Chukwueze received the ball from Giovani Lo Celso and conveniently danced past Nacho to find the bottom left corner. The second equaliser was more of the same, with the winger eliminating Real Madrid’s fullback with ease before firing a cross into Morales.
The left flank was again exposed for the winner when Villarreal’s man-of-the-match cut in from the wing to take his outrageous shot.
3. No room for spillovers
Two games into the restart of club football after the international break, Ancelotti’s men looked to be in the driver’s seat. They had put the ball into the net ten times including four against Barcelona and conceded none.
Yet, the second defeat of the season to Villarreal changes the dynamics. Los Blancos now head into the decisive UEFA Champions League quarterfinal with the defeat fresh in their memory and the momentum no longer on their side.
The first reaction of the players in white after the defeat was to quickly accept their lack of quality on the night and reassure each other that the result would play no part in the game against Chelsea.
One knows that the veterans in the dressing room with Ancelotti will take care of the situation, but it will be vital for the team to enter the pitch on Wednesday unscathed.
Three talking points ahead of Sevilla vs Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Real Valladolid was far from convincing. They may have been the more effective side, but the Merengues were far from being the better team against Andoni Iraola’s men.
Saturday brings with it the team’s penultimate game of the campaign as Real Madrid take on Sevilla. The Andalusian side have not been impressive in La Liga this season but have always been one to turn up against the big teams. Tomorrow’s game is expected to be no different.
Carlo Ancelotti is expected to make drastic changes ahead of kickoff, especially given the incomplete squad travelling for the game. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Sevilla vs Real Madrid.
1. Final game on the road
The 2022-23 season has flown by in the blink of an eye. It may have been a rocky campaign and could have ended with better results, but there is a feeling that the squad has a lot to take away from the season as it is.
From the highs of completing a special Copa del Rey comeback win over Barcelona to the lows of losing three successive Clasicos, the men in white have seen it all. As the season now approaches the curtain-closing phase, Carlo Ancelotti and his men will be eager for a strong finish.
Sunday night will see the Merengues‘ final away game of the season as they travel to Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan to take on Sevilla. The 2021-22 champions have not had the best of seasons on the road in La Liga this season and a statement finish would go a long way in boosting the morale.
Sevilla have been far from their best this campaign domestically. Though they are well placed to taste glory in the UEFA Europa League once again, they languish in tenth place on the league standings with just 13 wins in 36 games.
Los Blancos boast a fine record at Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan and are unbeaten at the stadium in their last eight appearances. Their last defeat at the venue came back in 2018, and the objective tonight will be to extend the aforementioned streak.
2. Tchouameni’s point to prove
As much as Aurelien Tchouameni’s initial months at the club were called paradise, the Frenchman has not had life easy at Real Madrid in his first season.
The Frenchman initially stepped in as a more than able replacement for Casemiro in the middle of the park. His astute reading of the game and defensive awareness made him a monster in midfield and his position in the starting lineup appeared safe.
Tchouameni’s situation, however, took a steep turn after the FIFA World Cup. Coming back from a fatiguing World Cup and a minor niggle, the defensive midfielder no longer found his name on the starting lineup as he became second fiddle to Eduardo Camavinga.
The entry of Toni Kroos as an option for the pivot role further reduced the Frenchman’s involvement.
The youngster thus has a point to prove on Sunday night. He is expected to start at the Ramon Sanchez Pijzuan and will look to orchestrate the team’s play from deep in midfield whilst holding the fortress simultaneously. After all, it could be his final chance to prove his worth ahead of the new season.
3. Only three forwards
Real Madrid’s squad list only names three forwards making the trip to Seville to take on Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side – Rodrygo Goes, Eden Hazard, and Alvaro Rodriguez.
The manager does have a fourth option in Federico Valverde and could look to mix and match his options on the night. However, Carlo Ancelotti maintained a low profile on the starting lineup ahead of Sunday’s clash, especially when asked about Eden Hazard’s chances of participating.
Given that it is the team’s penultimate game of the season, Ancelotti could well look to start all three pure forwards on the night. After all, each has their own special reason to participate.
For Hazard, the game against Sevilla could well be his final away game in a Real Madrid shirt. The Belgian is reluctant to leave the club at the moment, but everything could change in June if he begins to attract interest.
In Alvaro Rodriguez’s case, tomorrow’s game presents itself as an audition to seal a place in next season’s dynamics. The youngster has impressed whenever given the chance so far and will look to keep his high level going.
Rodrygo Goes, arguably, needs the game the least of the three candidates. Yet, with Ancelotti publicly asking him to take more prominence, he has a point to prove.