Bellingham and Kubo at scoring summit | Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad
The English and Japanese stars have been involved in the most goals in LaLiga so far, and go up against each other at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Jude Bellingham is just 20 years old. Take Kubo is 22. But these two young footballers have been involved in the most goals so far in LaLiga EA Sports (that’s just the new sponsors in case anyone thinks it’s a video game comparison).
The Englishman has been involved in six goals, scoring five from just eight attempts, while the Japanese star has contributed with four goals. Today, they have an appointment at the Santiago Bernabéu on a post-FIFA matchday, a disruption that usually affects the league. Carlo Ancelotti has fared well in his last two seasons at Real Madrid in this regard. He has only lost one out of six matches the day after an international break. That defeat came against Athletic in the Copa del Rey in an unusual break in February 2022 when South American national teams were catching up on their World Cup preparations. In four of those matches, his team secured victories.
La Real’s Kubo factor
Kubo is the standout player in a team where their new signings are still getting accustomed to the setup. The impressive Scottish player Kieran Tierney has started in only one match, Zakharyan has had brief appearances in two games, and André Silva, due to injury, and Odriozola, because he was signed on the last day of the transfer window, have yet to make their debuts. Umar Sadiq, the big signing from the previous season, suffered a cruciate ligament injury in the fifth game of the 2022-2023 league season and has not played since. He has not started a match this season.
Therefore, Kubo now assumes the role of the team’s main star, a very different position from his time at Los Blancos, where he was signed in 2019 but never made an official appearance. Kubo had mixed success at Mallorca, struggled at Villarreal and Getafe, and has finally found his place at Real Sociedad. He stated, “I saw it as my last chance. I had it in my mind that it was the final opportunity to make the big leap that is expected of me.”
Imanol Alguacil has played a significant role in his transformation, and Kubo remarked, “He always reminds me that I don’t have a guaranteed spot, and he urges me to keep pushing and not get complacent.”
The Imanol miracle for Sociedad
Real Sociedad arrive at the Bernabéu with only one victory in four matches, three of which were played at home. They have yet to find a solution to the absence of David Silva, an irreplaceable player, but so far, Imanol Alguacil has been very dependable. In March 2018, he took over the team as an interim coach following the dismissal of Eusebio Sacristán. Under his leadership, the team, then in fifteenth place, earned 16 points in nine matches and finished 12th. Nine months later, as the confirmed head coach, he made his debut at the Bernabéu in an even more challenging situation: La Real was just three points above the relegation zone. They won that match, took three months to suffer their first defeat, and finished just three points away from European qualification.
Since then, it has been a steady climb: three seasons of qualifying for the Europa League and last season, reaching the Champions League. They have already won twice at the Bernabéu.
Madrid prepare for Real test
Real Madrid, currently boasting an unblemished record of victories, faces the challenge of managing the workload of their international players. Two of them, Rodrygo and Valverde, have had a double transoceanic duty. The former is deemed indispensable, especially following Vinicius’s injury, who still has several weeks left for his return. The latter, who was already benched in the match against Getafe, has suitable replacements available.
In total, Madrid loaned out 12 players to their respective national teams, and all of them, except for the goalkeepers Kepa and Lunin, who had no international commitments, played in both scheduled matches for their nations. Consequently, Lucas Vázquez or Nacho might seize the opportunity to offer respite to Carvajal or Rüdiger, who have endured the most demanding schedules. Sociedad, with eight called-up players, incurred a lesser burden.
It is a certainty that Kroos will feature, as he is the only midfielder among the options who has not been on international duty for a while, having retired from playing for Germany. Likewise, it is highly probable that Luka Modric will make his fourth substitute appearance in five matchdays. Despite being 38 years old, he intends to prolong his international career, as Croatia still requires his services. He played for 61 minutes against Latvia and the full 90 minutes against Armenia. However, these two seasoned players, who have seen fewer opportunities than last season at this stage, played pivotal roles in orchestrating a comeback in the challenging match against Getafe.
Team news: Madrid to welcome back Ceballos
Ceballos returns to the squad after his last appearance in the tribute match for Joaquín on 6 June. In mid-July, he suffered a serious injury to the distal tendon of his right biceps femoris, which sidelined him for over two months. This setback was significant for Ceballos, who initially started the season as the team’s seventh-choice midfielder. Mendy, who sustained an injury during the summer Clásico in Las Vegas, returned to training on Wednesday, but Ancelotti prefers to wait until the Champions League debut against Union Berlin to include him in the lineup.
Real Sociedad’s medical room is fairly empty, although several players are not in their best form. André Silva is recovering from an injury that has kept him out for over three months and won’t be available. Elustondo is also unavailable due to discomfort, and both Odriozola and Barrenetxea are dealing with physical issues. Additionally, Zakharyan, despite not participating with Russia, couldn’t make the most of the break due to a respiratory infection that disrupted his week. With the Champions League on the horizon, both Imanol and Ancelotti will carefully assess the risks before making their decisions.