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Guler, Ceballos, start in a 4-4-2: How Real Madrid could line up against Arandina

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On Saturday night, Real Madrid embark on a new journey. They travel to Aranda de Duero to take on fourth-division side Arandina in their first game of this season’s Copa del Rey, a competition that they won last season.

The defending champions, once again, are amongst the overwhelming favourites to run away with the title this season. However, history is a testament that the Spanish Cup is far from as straightforward as it appears on paper.

One reminisces the team’s Round of 32 clash against Cacereno at Principe Felipe last season, a clash where Real Madrid were tested to no end by an inferior opposition and were even on the verge of getting knocked out.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side must thus be on their toes later today, for they face an opposition who have nothing to lose and a lot of prestige gained simply by participating against Real Madrid. Arandina will be fearless, and Los Blancos must be wary.

The Galacticos will be without some of their key stars for the Copa del Rey clash. Toni Kroos misses the game after suffering a knock to his ankle while Lucas Vazquez also does not make the squad list through a long-term injury.

Vinicius Jr and Aurelien Tchouameni have been rested for the game keeping the Spanish Super Cup in mind, with a host of academy players called up to fill the slots. Notably, however, the Copa del Rey has a rule by which at least seven first-team players must be on the field at any point.

With a number of restrictions imposed on his selection, here is how Ancelotti could play his cards against Arandina.

Starters

As confirmed by Carlo Ancelotti in his pre-game press conference, Kepa Arrizabalaga will start in goal against Arandina despite Anriy Lunin’s recent success.

The defensive line will witness wholesale changes. Considering that it is the manager’s last chance to rest key players in the near future, Antonio Rudiger is expected to start on the bench, with Nacho Fernandez and Alvaro Carillo taking over duties at centre-back.

Fran Garcia will continue to start at left-back, while Castilla star Vinicius Tobias is well-placed to start ahead of Daniel Carvajal for the cup encounter.

Eduardo Camavinga has returned to the squad after a long hiatus and will likely enter the starting dynamics immediately tomorrow. He will operate as the pivot alongside Federico Valverde with both Kroos and Tchouameni unavailable.

Arda Guler is expected to make his debut on the night, starting wide on the right side of midfield. Deployed to provide width on the flank, he will likely push higher in attack to combine with, and swap positions with the dynamic forwards.

Dani Ceballos, meanwhile, will start on the left extreme in midfield. Unlike Guler, he is expected to drop centrally during the buildup with the bulk of providing width falling on the shoulders of Garcia.

BERLIN, GERMANY – DECEMBER 12: Dani Ceballos of Real Madrid celebrates scoring their team’s third goal during the UEFA Champions League match between 1. FC Union Berlin and Real Madrid CF at Olympiastadion on December 12, 2023 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

With Vinicius Jr out of the squad and Rodrygo likely to be rested, Brahim Diaz and Joselu are best placed to start as the forwards. Needless to say, it is a big chance for the duo to prove their mettle and demand regular roles.

Substitutes

Despite starting on the bench, Antonio Rudiger is not one who can be kept out of the dynamics for long. The German star is expected to come on in the second half, albeit based on the game situation.

The same can be said about Rodrygo Goes and Daniel Carvajal, who will start on the bench but arrive on the field based on the team’s situation in the second half.

Real Madrid’s hero, Jude Bellingham is also amongst those who will certainly be rested against Arandina. His ability to score clutch goals almost assures him of a role at some point.

Amongst the academy stars, Alvaro Rodriguez and Nico Paz are likely to be Ancelotti’s preferred options.

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Tchouameni, Bellingham start in a 4-4-2: How Real Madrid could line up against Bayern Munich

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Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid will face their biggest fixture of the season later tonight when they lock horns with Bayern Munich in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

Having already won the Spanish Super Cup and La Liga, Los Blancos will be eager to take a step closer to lifting the Champions League crown as well.

The first leg, played in Germany, ended in a 2-2 draw leaving the tie nicely balanced as Real Madrid and Bayern Munich battle it out for a spot in the finals, where Borussia Dortmund await.

Heading into tonight’s clash, Real Madrid have only one injury-enforced absentee in the form of David Alaba.

Having made plenty of rotations to the team for the weekend La Liga clash against Cadiz, Carlo Ancelotti will name his strongest possible lineup at the Santiago Bernabeu tonight. And here’s how Real Madrid could take the field against Thomas Tuchel’s men.

Starters

Even though Thibaut Courtois is fully fit and made his first appearance of the season this past Saturday, Andriy Lunin has more than earned his spot in the lineup and will start in goal, as confirmed by Carlo Ancelotti yesterday.

Dani Carvajal is back in the squad after missing the first leg through suspension and is certain to replace Lucas Vazquez at right-back tonight against Bayern Munich. Meanwhile, Ferland Mendy will occupy the left side of the defence.

Antonio Rudiger is a certainty to feature at the heart of the defence but Ancelotti has a dilemma as far as the German’s partner is concerned.

But with Eder Militao still not back to his best and Nacho Fernandez not looking all too secure in the first leg, Aurelien Tchouameni could be asked to fill in at centre-back by Ancelotti.

Tchouameni could start at centre-back. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

In that scenario, Eduardo Camavinga becomes an automatic starter at the base of the Real Madrid midfield, where he will partner Toni Kroos, who was one of the Merengues’ best players from the first leg.

In somewhat of a tweaked setup, Ancelotti’s permanent fixture, Federico Valverde will line up on the right side of the midfield four, while Rodrygo Goes is likely to occupy the left flank – a position from where he has been quite effective in recent times.

It would mean that Vinicius Jr. would play in a more central role on the night against Bayern Munich, with fellow key man Jude Bellingham providing the Brazilian superstar support in the attacking line.

Substitutes

Luka Modric is a certainty to come on at some point in the second period for Real Madrid if he does not start against Bayern Munich. The Croatian has showcased good form in recent games and can impact the proceedings.

Brahim Diaz is also someone that Carlo Ancelotti counts on regularly from the bench and that is unlikely to change. Nacho Fernandez could be an option if Real Madrid wish to shut up shop at the back.

On the other hand, Joselu could be an alternative in attack to provide a different kind of threat in and around the Bayern Munich box.

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