After firing a blank against Malaga, Real Madrid visit Malmo in the Champions League as the Madrid derby looms large on the horizon. Sitting on the third spot in the La Liga, Rafael Benitez will be keen to avoid the defeat that was handed out to Carlo Ancelotti in the same fixture last season. While the 4-0 defeat at Vicente Calderon must have played a role in Carlo Ancelottia s sacking last season, the defeat against their city rivals also led to a slump that the team could not recover from as they finished the season empty-handed.
Though Rafael Beniteza s legacy at Real Madrid will definitely not hinge upon this fixture, here are three reasons why the Spaniard should be worried as he prepares for his first derby in charge of his a boyhood cluba .
A Limping Defence .
Real Madrida s start to their new campaign has been marred with a series of injuries that has left the squad depleted. Though Real Madrid have conceded only a single goal in their opening fixtures, the absence of Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Danilo has left the defence in shambles and is being held together solely due to the heroics of Keylor Navas.
While Marcelo and Dani Carvajal have retained their position in the defence, Sergio Ramosa injury, coupled with that of Pepe, has rendered the backline devoid of an experienced leader. Though Raphael Varane seems to have risen to the occasion, his partnership with Nacho in the middle is likely to prove insufficient as Benitez hopes to avoid a drubbing at Vicente Calderon. Atletico Madrid have a reputation for being tough customers and Diego Simeone’s men have a chance to exploit such weaknesses against Real Madrid.
According to Marca, Sergio Ramos has a a chancea of making a comeback though no official statement has been released regarding his date of return from injury. Pepe on the other hand is expected to be out for two weeks as reported by Marca.
Where is the No 10?
Along with Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Danilo in the defence, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez remain injured as Jese picked up a knock against Malaga at Santiago Bernabeu. While Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and Isco are expected to start against Atletico Madrid (barring yet another injury), the absence of Bale and Rodriguez in the starting line up has left Real Madrid curiously out of ideas.
Unable to break down the defence against Malaga, Real Madrid seem to be lacking the creative impetus in the final third that is needed to win games in the La Liga. Both Jese Rodriguez and Lucas Vazquez failed to make an impact in the absence of Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez. Hence, Mateo Kovacic expected to take his place in the starting line-up against Atletico Madrid but it remains to be seen if his addition is likely to solve Rafa Beniteza problem.
A Faltering Front Line
Following an exhausting fixture against Athletic Bilbao, Karim Benzema seemed out of sync in the attack as his partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo failed to yield a goal for Real Madrid. While Ronaldo seemed to be on the top of things and was only thwarted due to a superb performance by Malagaa s goalkeeper Kameni, Benzema had little to show for after spending 90 minutes on the pitch.
With the squad lacking a supporting striker, Karim Benzemaa s responsibilities in a No 9 role is only shared by Cristiano Ronaldo. Watching his performance against Malaga, the Frenchman seemed to be uninspired as he only showed brief sparks of his usual self in the second half. With Madrid due to travel to Sweden to face Malmo in the Champions League, it will be interesting to see if Rafael Benitez gives Karim Benzema a breather ahead of the Madrid derby.