Carlo Ancelotti tied a historic record currently held by Mourinho and Miguel Muñoz, with 15 consecutive wins in all competitions. With the hopes to make that record his own, he’ll send out his stellar lineup. Málaga are sitting on European spots, making this a match to take seriously. While they may be missing Amrabat, their best men, they won’t give up without a fight.
Preferred Formation: 4-3-3
Against Basel we saw more of this system than the 4-4-2. Bale’s lack of support and James’ deeper role clearly had Madrid working with three midfielders. Isco is doing a decent job as Modrić, yet it’s too soon to give him the double pivot role without some help. With this being a match against a team that’s on European spots, Isco and Kroos will need help for controlling the rivals.
GK: Iker Casillas
While signs pointed Navas could have a chance on Wednesday, Casillas being benched was still a surprise. The press is already spreading rumors that he’s very unhappy since he found out two hours before the game. He’ll definitely play on Saturday.
RB: Dani Carvajal
He missed the Basel game because of injury. Arbeloa played a very poor match, making Dani’s fitness more important now. Should he recover from this minor thing, there’s no doubt he will start the game.
Also missed Wednesday’s game, still two days allow him to get back in shape for Saturday. Varane remains a serious threat, so people shouldn’t be shocked if the Portuguese ends up in the bench.
CB: Sergio Ramos
Played a rather aggressive match versus Basel. His goal was clear, get suspended and start the knockout phase with a clean slate. However, he was playing well until then, so there’s no reason to leave him out.
Coentrão didn’t seem like he was coming out of a long injury. The Portuguese was very strong in defense, which is Marcelo’s weak spot. There’s a chance Marcelo could be rested once again, but it’s too soon to tell.
Many expected Ancelotti to give Khedira a role after Luka’s injury, yet he hasn’t been trusted with it. Isco has definitely earned it, working extra hard in a position that’s not even close to his natural one. He’ll start against his former team.
CM: Toni Kroos
Lacking Modrić, he won’t be taking a break anytime soon. He’s too important for the team and he seems to have the physical strength to play every match. The German will start the game, unless something sudden comes up.
LCM: James Rodríguez
He’s played all the matches this season. Some of them coming from the bench, but he has appeared in all. He should be resting soon enough for Khedira or Illarra. This is a more important match and he won’t miss it.
RW: Gareth Bale
Very far from the form we saw last year. There’s no clear explanation why that is. It could be personal, physical or emotional. He desperately needs a standout game, especially against a stronger team.
ST: Karim Benzema
He couldn’t score in his favorite competition on Wednesday. Nevertheless, he has a decent ratio with 12 goals in 19 games in all competitions. With Bale’s poor form, his connection with Ronaldo has grown into a fantastic one.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
The Ballon d’Or race may still be open, and Messi has broken two records in a week. We know this may be a double-edged sword for CR7. He hasn’t been playing his best, making Málaga the perfect victim to take it out on.