Following the debacle at Anoeta against Real Sociedad, Los Blancos will welcome their city rivals Atlético Madrid. While Carlo Ancelotti stated there would be some changes after that loss, his team has been affected by injuries. Carvajal is almost certainly out, and Khedira will be gone for a month and half. Carlo will have to do with what he’s got, which is still of great quality.
Matches against Atleti have become very tough for Real recently. The rivals have lost their fear after years of being beaten over and over again. It’s unlikely, but not impossible that Ancelotti will completely change the system. The 4-3-3 was ideal when Di María was present, and Khedira would’ve been a decent replacement. However, it seems that he will go out with his favorite system.
Preferred Formation 4-3-3
Having James, Kroos and Modrić together in the midfield is counterproductive. There are simply too many creative players, and no destructive ones. The only available player with a defensive mind is Illarramendi. The Basque player is about to face his biggest challenge yet. Bought to be the new Xabi, he’s yet to prove that he’s worthy of the role. It’s a safe bet to say that Illarra will start, and James will be benched unless Ronaldo can’t make it.
GK: Iker Casillas
His decent match against Macedonia could make him finally become his old self. Questioned after Anoeta, Ancelotti will continue to trust the captain. His great streak against Atleti has ended, after 25 consecutive matches without losing.
RB: Álvaro Arbeloa
Carvajal’s injury will give him a golden chance to redeem himself. His defensive strength hasn’t been as great as usual. However, he should be very helpful against the powerful left wing of the Colchoneros.
Still a quality center back, if he manages to control the set pieces, he will keep Iker safe. He should also motivate his partner to stay focused. Being Mandžukić’s shadow will be his main job.
CB: Sergio Ramos
He’s been a little lost so far, so it’s time for him to be the guy we saw in Munich or Lisbon last year. Lethal in attack, he should have a more defensive mentality against the city rivals.
It makes sense for him to start. Arbeloa and Coentrão are more defensive. If one wing back stays back, another one should go up and be a good resource. The Brazilian is very good at that, and if Cristiano is by his side, he can be very dangerous.
CDM: Asier Illarramendi
If Khedira were fit, we wouldn’t be talking about Asier. A series of events have given the Basque an opportunity of a lifetime. His tactical discipline could be helpful, and his presence will be a relief for Modrić and Kroos.
RCM: Luka Modrić
He needed Xabi last season in order to play better. When he’s relieved of heavy duties in the recovering zone, he can be that player to change a match’s course. He hasn’t been at his best this season, but it’s only a matter of time.
LCM: Toni Kroos
With Illarra covering his back, he will have more freedom to be the anchor. He won’t have to be too close to the defense, which will make his creativity show better. His set pieces, long passes and good long-range shot will be important.
RW: Gareth Bale
While he had a brilliant 20 minutes against Sociedad, much more is asked of him. He needs to show once again that he’s good in the tough games. He also was MIA in the Spanish Super Cup, so it’s time for him to step it up.
ST: Karim Benzema
It doesn’t seem Chicharito will take his place for this game. The Frenchman will have one more chance to prove that he’s the best striker for Madrid. He’s only scored in one of the last seven matches against Atleti.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
He’s working extremely hard to make it. He’s had three weeks off and it can prove to be just what he needed. His leadership and goals will be key for getting past the rough La Liga start.