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Benzema returns; Asensio starts in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could line up against Shakhtar

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Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid will look to secure progression to the next round of the UEFA Champions League when they take on Shakhtar Donetsk in a Group F encounter in Warsaw later tonight.

With three wins in three matches, Los Blancos are at the top of the standings and have a foot through the door to the Round of 16. Another win on Tuesday would ascertain their place in the knockout stages, which would allow Carlo Ancelotti room to rest his key players freely amidst a tight schedule.

But with the first El Clasico of the season against Barcelona coming up on Sunday, the Italian tactician might decide to select his team by prioritising the weekend encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Either way, Real Madrid still continue to be without first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois while Dani Ceballos is also out with an injury. The big news is that Karim Benzema is back in the squad after sitting out against Getafe.

Madrid Universal takes a look at the possible lineup that Ancelotti might send out in Warsaw to face Shakhtar tonight.

Starters

Andriy Lunin is a guaranteed starter for Real Madrid as they continue to cope with the absence of Courtois. However, the Ukrainian is likely to see wholesale changes in front of him.

Lucas Vazquez is in line to replace Dani Carvajal at right-back while Ancelotti is likely to hand a rare start to Nacho Fernandez at the heart of the defence, with Eder Militao set to be rested after the knock he picked up at the weekend.

Antonio Rudiger is one player who is expected to hold on to his spot in the defensive line for the Merengues from the match against Getafe. As for the left-back slot, Ancelotti has already confirmed that Ferland Mendy will be starting after being rested at the weekend.

Aurelien Tchouameni has established himself as an undroppable member of the starting XI for Real Madrid and should continue as the deepest of the three midfielders.

However, his compatriot, Eduardo Camavinga could get a run-out from the start again so that Luka Modric is kept fresh ahead of the crucial Clasico. Toni Kroos, meanwhile, will return to the starting XI, as confirmed by Ancelotti.

Benzema, too, is set to feature from the kickoff against Shakhtar and it will be important for Real Madrid that their captain finds some rhythm ahead of the Barcelona clash.

Vinicius Jr, however, could be given a breather by the manager, paving the way for Marco Asensio to start, having made a few bright cameo appearances in recent weeks. Rodrygo should take the right-wing spot, with Federico Valverde likely to be held back with El Clasico in mind.

Substitutes

Both Valverde and Vinicius will likely get some minutes in the latter part of the game or even earlier if things do not go Real Madrid’s way. Luka Modric could come on in the closing stages as well, while Eden Hazard could also stand a chance to play for a few minutes.

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MU Shorts

Modric, Kroos start in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could line up against Atletico Madrid

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Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Real Madrid will battle it out with neighbours Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey on Thursday night at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Having gotten the better of Villarreal in the previous round, Los Blancos will be hoping to produce a solid performance against Diego Simeone’s side so that they can take a step closer towards winning the trophy that they have not won in over eight years.

Heading into the match, Carlo Ancelotti has four players unavailable for selection, with Aurelien Tchouameni, Dani Carvajal, Lucas Vazquez and Eden Hazard missing out.

The good news, though, is that David Alaba is back to full fitness and has been included in the squad list for the Atletico Madrid clash.

Ahead of the much-anticipated derby on Thursday night, Madrid Universal looks to predict how the Merengues could line up against the Colchoneros.

Starters

For the previous cup tie, Ancelotti selected Thibaut Courtois ahead of Andriy Lunin and given the magnitude of Thursday’s match, the Belgian is expected to continue between the sticks.

The manager has already confirmed that David Alaba will be playing tomorrow and the Austrian is likely to slot in as the centre-back alongside Eder Militao, with Antonio Rudiger dropping out.

With no Carvajal and Vazquez, Ancelotti will once again count on Nacho Fernandez at right-back, something he already confirmed in his press conference. Meanwhile, Ferland Mendy will continue occupying the left side of the defensive line.

VALLADOLID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 30: David Alaba of Real Madrid warms up prior to the LaLiga Santander match between Real Valladolid CF and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Municipal Jose Zorrilla on December 30, 2022 in Valladolid, Spain. (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)
Alaba returns for Real Madrid (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Eduardo Camavinga showcased his quality while operating as a defensive midfielder against Athletic Club over the weekend. With Tchouameni still sidelined, it makes sense for the Real Madrid boss to continue with the 20-year-old as the deepest of the three midfielders.

Luka Modric and Toni Kroos were both shock omissions from the league game against Athletic over the weekend. But having given the veterans some rest, Ancelotti will likely recall them for the derby versus Atletico Madrid.

This would lead to Federico Valverde, who was on target in the last meeting vs Atleti, starting on the right flank. Vinicius Jr, who has been under the pump of late, ought to occupy his customary position on the left, with Karim Benzema spearheading the attack.

Vinicius · Benzema · Valverde
Kroos · Camavinga · Modric
Mendy · Alaba · Militao · Nacho
Courtois

Substitutes

Rodrygo Goes has often made a difference for Real Madrid when coming on from the bench and he will be one of the first members on the bench that Ancelotti will turn to on Thursday.

Dani Ceballos will feel unlucky to drop out to the bench given his recent performances but should get some minutes in the second half. Marco Asensio is another player who the Real Madrid manager will call upon in the latter stages of the contest.

Antonio Rudiger could replace Alaba at some point in the second half considering that the latter is just returning from an injury.

Even though Ancelotti has been reluctant to use Castilla players, Sergio Arribas has been called up to the squad and could be given a few minutes, depending on the situation of the game.

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