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.
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.
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.
Brahim, Modric start in a 4-4-2: How Real Madrid could line up against Rayo Vallecano
Real Madrid have an excellent opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the La Liga table to eight points when they travel to Estadio de Vallecas to take on Rayo Vallecano on Sunday afternoon.
Real Madrid are currently five points clear of second-placed Girona and with the Catalans not playing until Monday night, Los Blancos have a chance to stretch their advantage with a win tomorrow.
Momentum is also on the side of Carlo Ancelotti’s men after they picked up two crucial victories against Girona (La Liga) and RB Leipzig (UEFA Champions League) over the past week.
But, Rayo Vallecano, who have a new manager in place in Inigo Perez, had managed to hold Real Madrid to a goalless draw in the reverse fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu. So, the game will not be straightforward on Sunday.
Here’s how Real Madrid could line up at the Vallecas as they look to take another step towards winning the La Liga title.
Andriy Lunin has firmly established himself as the preferred choice in goal ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga. As such, the Ukrainian should again start for Real Madrid against Rayo Vallecano.
There will be one change in the defensive line that took the field against Leipzig in midweek as Fran Garcia will step into the team at left-back with Ferland Mendy out of the squad due to suspension.
Antonio Rudiger, David Alaba, and Eder Militao are still injured, which means Aurelien Tchouameni will once again have to fill in at centre-back where he will partner captain Nacho Fernandez. Meanwhile, Dani Carvajal should continue on the right side of the defence.
Tchouameni starting in defence means one can expect Eduardo Camavinga to occupy the pivot position in the middle of the park for Real Madrid.
However, there could be a notable change in midfield, with Luka Modric getting a rare start after a period of inactivity, with Toni Kroos getting a breather. Federico Valverde will occupy the other interior midfield position for the visitors.
Brahim Diaz came off with a fitness issue against RB Leipzig in midweek, but is not injured and has been named in the squad list. Given his form, the Spaniard should again start in the hole behind the two forwards in the absence of Jude Bellingham, who is injured.
Up top, there is no looking past the Brazilian dynamic duo of Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Jr, both of whom will be raring to get on the scoresheet after not scoring against Leipzig.
Joselu is certain to come onto the pitch at some point in the game to provide a different kind of threat in the attacking third. Toni Kroos should also come off the bench, especially if things are not going Real Madrid’s way.
There could also be minutes for Arda Guler, who has not seen as much action as one would have expected since returning from injury. Dani Ceballos is also an option for Ancelotti if he wishes to relieve one of his midfielders.