Every year, the UEFA Champions League brings with it a set of unmissable fixtures that see Europe’s elite take on each other. This year, the clash between Real Madrid and Paris-Saint Germain is the game the world has its eyes on as the Ligue 1 and La Liga leaders try to pip the other out of the competition.
The first leg ended in victory for the French side after Kylian Mbappe scored a sensational solo goal in the final minute of the game. The Parisians dominated the proceedings on the night, while Ancellotti’s side sat back and defended in a passive display.
Their lacklustre performance at Parc des Princes now puts them in a must-win situation on Wednesday. Not only do Real Madrid have to win but also do so by a margin of at least two goals.
The situation is tricky for Ancellotti, for he must put up a team that can score goals without conceding at the other end. Here is how Los Blancos could lineup midweek against PSG.
Thibaut Courtois has been one of the team’s best players in recent weeks. The Belgian has rescued many a point single-handedly for his side and warrants a starting position on the night. Having failed to maintain a clean sheet in his last two appearances, the 29-year-old will have to put his all and avoid conceding a goal on Wednesday.
In central defence, Ancellotti will likely opt for the combination of David Alaba and Eder Militao to guard the goal. The Brazilian had a poor game against Real Sociedad. Though the team came away with a 4-1 win, Militao looked lost on many occasions and was dribbled past thrice in ninety minutes.
At right-back, one could expect Lucas Vazquez to take up the responsibility. Daniel Carvajal is indeed the first-choice right-back, but his poor record in recent games might give the manager second doubts.
The Spaniard conceded a penalty against PSG in the first leg and gave away another one at the weekend against Real Sociedad. Given the pressure to not concede, he could be benched for Vazquez.
Ancelotti’s biggest worry heading into the game midweek is left-back. Lionel Messi will be operating on PSG’s right flank, and Los Blancos are without both their left-backs on the night.
While Ferland Mendy is suspended, Marcelo suffered an injury in the last game and is doubtful. Nacho Fernandez is likely to get a start at left-back and will have to pull off an astronomical performance for his team on Wednesday.
Madrid will be without two key players for the second leg clash. Casemiro is suspended from the game owing to an accumulation of yellow cards, and Eduardo Camavinga is best placed to replace him. The 19-year-old produced a tremendous performance against La Real at the weekend and will be tasked with a bigger challenge come Wednesday.
The second player unavailable on the night is Toni Kroos. The German’s participation is not completely ruled out, but it is unlikely that he will start while physically unfit. One would expect Federico Valverde to take his place against PSG.
The final, and probably most crucial presence in midfield will be Luka Modric. The Croatian international continues to churn out world-class displays at the age of 36 and Ancelotti will hope for another big night for Modric against PSG.
Vinicius Jr. has been Real Madrid’s best young talent this season, scoring 13 goals and providing six assists in the league alone. However, the Brazilian did not have a good showing in the first leg in Paris. Given that his side need to score, he will have to be on point with his finishing and dribbling.
Karim Benzema will start as the centre-forward. The Frenchman failed to register a single shot when the two sides met two weeks ago. Needless to say, his performance will account for a big part of Real Madrid’s Champions League future.
The final player in the lineup is Rodrygo. The teenager provides a better work rate and linkup compared to Marco Asensio which could see him favoured by the manager. The Brazilian must be accurate on the night in both attack and defence if Real Madrid are to qualify for the quarters.
Toni Kroos is one of the big who will start on the bench against Pochettino’s side. Despite not being completely fit, the German could be involved in the second half given the gravity of the game.
Dani Carvajal is a valuable option for the manager to run a riot on the right-flank in the second half. One would also expect Marco Asensio to be involved in the closing minutes, especially if Los Blancos are chasing a goal. The same goes for Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Granada | La Liga
Napoli fought tooth and nail for all three points against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this week. They took the early lead in the first half, then fought back to find an equaliser after Real Madrid put two past them.
In the end, however, they were outdone by the hosts’ resilience and never-say-die attitude. The result thus registered Real Madrid’s fourth win on the trot and twelfth game without a defeat.
The men in white must now look ahead to their next La Liga game scheduled to kick off in just over 24 hours. Faced against Granada in a critical matchday, the aim will be to take all three points and thus maintain a healthy position in the standings.
Ancelotti announced some key recoveries in his pre-match press conference and also confirmed that Jude Bellingham would be fit to participate on the evening. Yet, he is concurrently in a difficult moment in terms of squad fitness.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Granada vs Real Madrid.
A clash of two poles
While Ancelotti’s Real Madrid sit lavishly on the top of La Liga’s standings, their opponents for Saturday afternoon have quite a contrasting fate. Granada sit on the other end of the league table and find themselves in a desolate situation 14 match days into the season.
Granada are currently 19th in La Liga with just one win in 14 games, and have changed managers, with Alexander Medina replacing Paco Lopez. They have lost a staggering nine games and walked away with one point on four occasions.
Granada have only scored 19 goals all season while conceding on 33 occasions. Comparing the numbers to Real Madrid’s 31 goals scored and nine goals conceded speaks volumes about the form of both teams heading into tomorrow’s clash.
The visitors’ last win in La Liga came back in August, and it is safe to say that a victory vs Real Madrid will do them a world of good. They will be the underdogs at the Bernabeu, but nothing is impossible considering that they drew with Barcelona not so long ago.
Saturday’s clash will thus be interesting, to say the least. With the injury-inflicted league leaders taking on a relegation-threatened side, the script cannot be predicted.
The rising phenomenon
Real Madrid’s injury crisis has not been easy on the manager. Ancelotti has been forced to rework his dynamics time and time again with a new player falling prey to the endless pit in every game.
The Italian is now in a situation where he has only four players left in the middle of the park. Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, Jude Bellingham, and Dani Ceballos all started Real Madrid’s last game but it was young Nico Paz who stole the headlines.
The youngster has risen to prominence in Los Blancos’ latest injury emergency and his prominence has only increased over the past weeks. In the team’s latest outing against Napoli, he was on the field for close to half an hour and scored a crucial goal in the 84th minute.
With a tight schedule ahead and limited resources at his disposal, Ancelotti must look to rotate his men in midfield. Paz, on that front, is the Italian gaffer’s best choice and must look to make the most of his minutes tomorrow.
The golden chance
The biggest talking point from La Liga so far has been Girona’s stunning run at the beginning of the season. The Catalan side surprised everyone with win after win and stole the headlines by retaining the sole lead in the league until match day 13.
After six straight wins, Athletic Club broke Girona’s streak last weekend with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Estadi Montilivi. Having dropped two points, they are now level with Real Madrid in the standings with 35 points in 14 games.
It will thus be Ancelotti’s objective to take all three points against Granada and make a strong push towards taking the lead over Girona. After all, the co-leaders face a difficult opponent in Valencia and could well drop points.
Moreover, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are set to face off later this weekend. One, or both of the Spanish giants will drop points on the night, thus giving Real Madrid further impetus to gun for all three points tomorrow.
Considering the team’s good run of form in recent games, the dressing room will be confident about securing the much-needed result.