Real Madrid travelled to the Estadio Ramon de Carranza to take on Cadiz on Sunday. Despite the 49 point gap separating the two teams, the game was a close affair with the lower-placed side seemingly better at times.
Despite Ancelotti’s side recording over 60% possession on the night, it was Cadiz who presented constant threats in attack. The hosts recorded 21 shots on the night, including five shots blocked and three big chances missed.
Mariano Diaz’s opener was quickly cancelled out by Ruben Sorino in the first half. Neither side was able to find the back of the net in the second half, and the sides split the points.
The draw puts Cadiz on level points with Mallorca and presents them with a realistic chance of avoiding relegation. Here are three talking points from Cadiz vs Real Madrid.
1. A new look side at the Carranza
Real Madrid have both their eyes set on the Champions League final. With the domestic title sealed, every game is an opportunity for the manager to rest some key players and test his bench strength.
On Sunday, the starting XI once again consisted of a combination of experience and bench players. With the result being inconsequential, a weakened team did no harm to Real Madrid’s cause.
Thibaut Courtois has been one of Los Blancos‘ standout players this season, but was unwell for this game. In his place, the young Andriy Lunin got a start and did not let his manager down.
While central defence remained untouched, Ancelotti decided not to risk Ferland Mendy at left-back on the night. Marcelo’s injury meant that a new face would have to cover the defensive position, and Lucas Vazquez was the one given that responsibility.
At right-back, Jesus Vallejo recieved a deserved start after a spectacular display against Levante.
Not much rotation was seen in midfield with Toni Kroos and Casemiro playing from the opening minute. The only change was Federico Valverde for Luka Modric.
Both Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr were excluded from the team at the Carranza in preparation for the game in Paris. In their place, Mariano Diaz and Rodrygo started alongside Marco Asensio in the final third.
2. Andriy Lunin: the new hero
One would expect Thibaut Courtois’ backup goalkeeper to be a downgrade when held against the Belgian’s astronomical standards. However, Andriy Lunin provided a performance on Sunday that even the best of the best would be proud of.
In 90 minutes, the Ukrainian international made six saves, including five from inside the box. His performance even included a saved penalty, two high claims and two clearances.
Oussama Idrissi was the first Cadiz player to test Lunin in the first half with a tenacious shot. A few minutes later, Sobrino produced a colossal strike to put the ball past the 23-year-old.
Negredo combined with Perez at the hour mark in a move that saw the latter released free in front of goal. The Spaniard went down in the area and the referee pointed to the spot.
The forward tried placing his spot-kick to the right side, but his effort was timid, and Lunin pounced on it to deny them the lead. He was called into action again seven minutes later when he had to deny Negredo from inside the box.
In the 70th minute, Cadiz had what was their best chance of the game. Negredo’s cross was blocked by Lunin again, before then reaching Sobrino on the rebound.
3. The return of Toni Kroos
After a run of poor games, Toni Kroos once again ruled the midfield at the Carranza. The German was unplayable on the night, and possibly Real Madrid’s best player after Lunin.
In 90 minutes, the World Cup winner created a whopping four chances and had an xA of 0.3. He finished the game with a passing accuracy of 96% and completed all 17 attempted long balls on the night.
Defensive, Kroos was on point throughout the game. He produced two clearances, two-headed clearances, eight recoveries, and won four tackles.
Kroos’ return to form comes as music to the ears of Real Madrid fans. Ahead of the biggest game of the year, having their three midfield stars at their imperious best will certainly give the team a massive boost in confidence.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia
For all the institutional and sporting catastrophes Valencia suffer from, they put up a resilient show against Real Madrid last month and held them to a draw in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup.
Having fired Gennaro Gattuso less than 48 hours ago, Los Che will be under the command of an interim coach at Santiago Bernabeu in the hope of repeating their feat from Saudi Arabia.
After all, they are struggling this season with just 20 points in 18 league appearances.
Valencia may not be the top team it used to be a couple of seasons ago, but there is a fighting spirit to the squad that makes them special.
As Real Madrid looks to make amends for their dropped points against La Real, some important considerations cross the manager’s mind regarding the clash against Los Che.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Valencia.
1. More names at Ancelotti’s disposal
Real Madrid’s long injury list has been a thorn in Carlo Ancelotti’s feet for a long time now. While the manager has had close to five players unavailable through fitness concerns, two names were considered irreplaceable.
Daniel Carvajal is the first on that list. The Spanish International’s presence gave the club hope after Lucas Vazquez’s injury last month, but almost as if planned, the 30-year-old immediately suffered a blow in training and was forced to sit out.
For four games, Ancelotti was thus forced to field Nacho Fernandez as his right-back. The centre-back did a good job at covering out of position, however, will be pushed back to the bench on Thursday as Los Blancos celebrate the return of Carvajal.
The defender is not the only one making his way back, as Aurelien Tchouameni also received the medical all-clear earlier this week.
The French pivot hobbled off an hour into Real Madrid’s league clash against Villarreal in the first week of January and has been sidelined for close to a month.
His absence pushed his coach to try numerous permutations in midfield, but it was finally Eduardo Camavinga who stamped his authority on the position.
With Tchouameni back roaring, his place in the starting lineup seems to be written in stone. One can expect the Frenchman to be deployed alongside Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos for his return to action on Thursday.
2. Concern shifts from right to left-back
The Merengues will finally have a natural right-back available to play against Valencia midweek. However, that does not signal the end of the Italian tactician’s trouble-riddles period.
Just when one full-back position returned to a state of normalcy, Real Madrid now have a crisis at left-back.
Ferland Mendy picked up a thigh injury earlier this week and will miss the team’s next two months of action at least. To say that this is a big blow to the club’s plans would be an understatement, for Mendy was the only natural left-back available in the squad.
David Alaba would appear to be the best-placed alternative, but the Austrian is ruled out through injury himself. Placed at a lack of options, Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference earlier today that Eduardo Camavinga would play there against Valencia.
The youngster has played in the defensive position earlier but will face the heat going up against Jose Luis Gaya at Santiago Bernabeu.
Given that Valencia’s right flank put up a memorable display when the two teams met last month, one can be certain that Camavinga’s performance can make or break Real Madrid’s night.
3. No margin for error
Less than halfway through the league season, Los Blancos already find themselves five points behind Barcelona. The wide gap is not a consequence of the defending champions’ poor form but the sheer consistency of Xavi Hernandez’s men, who cannot stop winning.
Having won the Supercopa de Espana last month, the Catalans are currently riding high on confidence. With their season heading from strength to strength, Real Madrid must hold on and wait for the right opportunity to topple the tables.
The Galacticos‘ draw against Real Sociedad added two points to the gap between the top two sides last week. At this stage, Ancelotti’s men cannot afford any further slip-ups for a larger gap would be too much for the men in white to compensate.
Every game henceforth will be a final for Real Madrid in La Liga. Three points are the bare minimum the club can walk away with from any fixture, and that mission will start from their game against Valencia.