After Arsenal’s loss to Manchester United yesterday, Real Madrid are the only remaining team in the top five leagues with a perfect record. They have won all four of their games in the 2022/23 season, scoring 11 goals and conceding four.
Their goal this season is to retain the Champions League and La Liga, both, and the journey for the former begins tomorrow in Glasgow, Scotland. Los Blancos are pinned against Celtic for the opening round of the UCL group stages.
Celtic have had a stunning start to their season in the Scottish Premiership, obtaining all possible points in six games, while scoring a mammoth 25 goals.
At the 60,000-seater Celtic Park, the defending Scottish champs will prove to be a lot more trouble than Madrid will be hoping for.
It’s the first game of the UCL season, and Carlo Ancelotti does not have a lot of reasons to rotate too much of his best team tomorrow. We at Madrid Universal predict how Real Madrid will line up tomorrow against Celtic.
Even though he is yet to claim his first clean sheet of the season, Thibaut Courtois has started this season exactly where he left off. In fact, things could be much different for Madrid without him. Tomorrow, he will start in goal, hoping the net doesn’t bulge once.
With Jesus Vallejo and Nacho still possibly out injured, we do not expect a lot of changes in the defence. David Alaba could be forced out wide as the left-back, while Lucas Vazquez comes in to replace Daniel Carvajal at right-back.
In the centre, Antonio Rudiger is overdue for game-time, and is expected to get exactly that tomorrow. He will partner Eder Militao in the heart of the defence.
Eduardo Camavinga had a rather underwhelming display against Real Betis last week, but should be awarded with a second consecutive start regardless. He will, however, replace Aurelien Tchouameni as the lone pivot in the midfield trident.
Ancelotti has to do his best to preserve Luka Modric, and therefore, it is likely that the Croatian starts from the bench tomorrow. In his place, Toni Kroos returns, playing as one of the advanced interiors.
The final piece of the puzzle could be Dani Ceballos, who has done just enough for Ancelotti to start him. Should he do well, he could be in line to retain his place for the RCD Mallorca game this weekend.
Federico Valverde was brought in from the bench in the 63rd minute and assisted Rodrygo for the winner with one of his first touches of the game. There is little to no chance he starts as a substitute two games in a row.
Vinicus Jr, etched his name on the scoresheet, too, and now has three goals and an assist in four games this season. He should be one of the first names in the starting lineup with the kind of form he is in.
Finally, Karim Benzema is expected to complete the XI as the centre-forward. Despite scoring three goals already, the Frenchman has been surprisingly hit-and-miss in front of the goal, missing seven big chances. He will be hoping a goal or two in the Champions League tomorrow can change his fortunes.
Vinicus · Benzema · Valverde
Kroos · Camavinga · Ceballos
Alaba · Rudiger · Militao · Vazquez
If Ancelotti does, indeed, opt to use this midfield, we expect Aurilien Tchouameni and Luka Modric to be one of the first ones to be brought on in the second half.
Ferland Mendy is in contention to be subbed in as well, giving one of Militao or Alaba some much-needed rest. The same goes for Rodrygo, who could get the nod to replace Vinicius or Valverde if things are going well.
Eden Hazard has not stepped off the bench in the last two games, but tomorrow is the perfect opportunity for him to win back some lost 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.