Three things we learnt from Cadiz 1-1 Real Madrid
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.
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.