Martínez Valero, Elche
Sept 25, 2013; 20:00 GMT
Real Madrid are finally starting to find their feet and built an identity for themselves. While the first couple of games were difficult for the players, they appear to be totally at ease with Ancelotti’s current tactics. Initially the focus was on ball retention and dictating play at all times, but with the speed merchants and technically brilliant players at his disposal, the former AC Milan coach appears to have stuck a formula playing fast, direct football.
Elche, on the other hand, have been promoted this year after an excellent campaign in the second division. While they may have gained promotion after a long time, the links between Real Madrid and Elche are far deeper than with any other club. Michael Yokhin, in a brilliant article for espnfc.com, has shed further light on this. Santiago Bernabeu, the club’s greatest servant was an Elche fan and another of the club’s great icon, Alfredo di Stefano started his coaching career with Elche. He further points out that Martinez Valero, Elche’s home ground is a miniature replica of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
Incidentally, Real Madrid have achieved their best ever result in La Liga against Elche, beating them 12-2 in 1960.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Fran Escriba, the coach of Elche, resembling Mourinho, was Quique Sanchez Flores assistant before he went solo. His relationship with Quique Flores resembles that of Villas-Boas with Mourinho. Escriba places on defensive organization and his team score goals playing counter-attacking football. They had the best defensive record in the Segunda division since 2003.
The defensive line consists of Damian Suarez, the experience Alberto Botia, Lomban and their highest goal scorer so far, Edu Albacar. Escriba may opt for a 4-2-3-1, with the defensive midfielders being Carlos Sanchez and Ruben Perez. They will counter attack using the pace of Stevanovic, Coro and Fidel.
Ghana international, Richmond Boakye, has been signed from Juventus on loan completing a forward line.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Herrera; Suarez, Botia, Loman, Albacar; Sanchez, Perez; Stevanovic, Coro, Fidel; Boakye
Carlo Ancelotti has been smart with his defensive personnel rotating the back four, giving chances to the new boys – Nacho and Carvajal – regularly, using them to replace Pepe, Ramos and Arbeloa. With Varane and Coentrao fit to play, the coach now has got more options in defense and both are expected to start. Dani Carvajal and Sergio Ramos could fill the remaining spots. Diego Lopez continues to impress and his current status as first-choice goal keeper is justified considering his excellent performances right from the start of the season.
Asier Illarramendi has been getting decent playing time but the young Spaniard needs few more matches under his belt to be at his best. His quality on the ball has been undeniable but he may be rested in favor of the Croatian, Luka Modric and Sami Khedira. Modric has blossomed under Ancelotti and continues to grow in stature with every performance. Slowly, he is turning out to be a vital cog in Ancelotti’s plan for Real Madrid.
Cristiano Ronaldo cannot stop scoring. His brace against Getafe took him to 208 goals, equaling Hugo Sanchez’s record as the fifth highest goal scorer for Real Madrid. It is very likely that Ronaldo will surpass Ferenc Puskas’ record of 242 goals before the end of the campaign if he continues in the same vein.
In addition to Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco has been lighting up stadiums this year with his performances and Ancelotti has confirmed that Isco would play against Elche. Angel Di Maria, who was linked to clubs away from Real Madrid, has fought and earned the right the start for Real Madrid in every game. His work-rate has been superlative and has given balance to the squad affording Ronaldo and Isco the creative license to attack.
Karim Benzema endured another terrible night at the Santiago Bernabeu against Getafe. After an excellent game against Galatasaray, the French international missed easy chances and was whistled by the Ultras in favor of Alvaro Morata. While Ancelotti has defended Benzema, goals would actually prevent the coach from defending his star striker in every press conference.
Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Lopez; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Coentrao; Modric, Khedira; Di Maria, Isco, Ronaldo; Benzema
Player To Watch Out For
The sale of Ozil continues to raise questions considering Isco is the only recognized primary playmaker in the squad and any slip up would inevitably be linked to his sale. But Ancelotti will be relieved with the gifted 21-year-old performances and the consistency of his plays over the course of 90 minutes. His goals have been superbly taken; his game play has been intelligent, moving back and forth; and his dribbling is a delight to watch.
Elche 0 – 4 Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s swagger was evident against Galatasaray and Getafe and with Elche struggling to get their season going, it should be an easy game for the visitors to win.