Real Madrid will welcome Barcelona to the Camp Nou with open arms tonight as they look to solidify their position on top of the table. With both teams in excellent form, a win for Madrid could go a long way in raising morale, especially during the business end of the season.
However, there are a lot of concerns for Carlo Ancelotti to deal with, starting with the absence of Karim Benzema. The Frenchman picked up an injury vs Mallorca and has been ruled out of the El Clasico.
Secondly, who starts at left-back since Ferland Mendy has been sidelined as well? Marcelo offers a lot more in possession, but Nacho can do a much better job defensively against one of Ousmane Dembele or Adama Traore.
Join Madrid Universal as we try to predict how Ancelotti will plug these two holes, and others, ahead of the all-important El Clasico.
Oh-so-often Real Madrid’s saviour, Thibaut Courtois will be called into action multiple times against this Barcelona side, who have not had trouble scoring goals.
A four-man defence will be screening him, with Eder Militao and David Alaba at the heart of it. The duo was monumental during the last Clasico, held as part of the Spanish Super Cup in Dubai, and will be hoping to replicate the same tonight.
We expect Ancelotti to choose Nacho to flank the centre-backs from the left side in the hope of solidifying the defence. Dani Carvajal will start over Lucas Vazquez as the right-back.
Little to no doubts over the starting midfielders tomorrow. Casemiro has been the Clasico hero so often this season, and should get the nod at defensive midfield. He will be joined by his usual partners in what is expected to be a 4-3-3.
Toni Kroos will likely start on the left side of Casemiro, while Luka Modric will, in all probability, take over responsibilities on the other side of the midfield trident.
The biggest question is who will replace Benzema to spearhead the attacking trio. Ancelotti named five different players who could replace him, but we expect him to go with Gareth Bale as the striker.
The Welshman has been deployed there multiple times this season, and is the only one who could successfully offer the same aerial threat and ball-striking technique that Benzema does.
The left-wing is pretty much straightforward. Vinicius Jr. has been a revelation for Madrid this season with 14 goals and six assists in the league. There is no question that he will be the ‘leader’ in the attack.
The right side, however, is a toss up between Marco Asensio and Rodrygo. The latter adds defensive depth and work-rate to the forward line, but we expect the former to start owing to his goal-scoring prowess.
Predicted Real Madrid XI:
Carvajal · Militao · Alaba · Nacho
Modric · Casemiro · Kroos
Asensio · Bale · Vinicius
There is a solid possibility that we will get to see one or both of Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde come off the bench to replace the starting midfielders.
Rodrygo and Eden Hazard are the usual suspects that have come off the bench this season, and could be called upon to add more attacking depth if Madrid are chasing the game.
The same goes for Marcelo, who can single-handedly change the outlook of the game with a single cross or through-ball. He could come in to replace Nacho. And on the right side, Lucas Vazquez could be called up on to sub off Carvajal.
Real Madrid maintain full confidence in Turkish starlet despite injury woes
Arda Guler’s Real Madrid stint has not gotten off to the start he would have hoped to have given the expectation that preceded the transfer.
Having joined in the summer after Real Madrid outbid their competition to win him over from Fenerbahce for a 20-million-euro fee, buzz was high as the winger was expected to slot into the team quite seamlessly, albeit on a rotational basis.
Unfortunately for the 18-year-old, he has been constantly marred by injuries since completing the move.
Reports have stated that after Guler picked up his third injury since his move, Real Madrid have been concerned and want to take things slow with the player to ensure he is fit as soon as possible after an injury to his quadriceps this time.
The Turk is yet to make his competitive debut for the club, and Real Madrid even sacked their medical chief in November, in light of their injury crises since the beginning of the season.
No loan deal for Guler
However, according to Fabrizio Romano in a recent YouTube video, he states that Madrid maintain full trust and patience in the youngster.
Despite his bad luck with injuries, the latest of which he is scheduled to return from after Christmas, the Galacticos have no intention of loaning out Guler to Turkish clubs despite lots of speculation of them doing so of late.
Romano states that Madrid remain firm on not shaking things up too much with the squad, and they want to keep their roster stable, including Arda Guler.
They want to extend their full support and protection to the player as he aims to return to full fitness and finally make his bow for Madrid either by the end of this month or in 2024.