With Eder Militao injured on the first match day for Real Madrid, Antonio Rudiger took over as the team’s leader in defence.
The German international was far from a regular under Carlo Ancelotti last campaign but has been one of the team’s most consistent players and performers in 2023-24.
The responsibility on his shoulders only increased after David Alaba’s ACL injury, and he is now one of only two available centre-backs at the club.
Heading into the derby against Atletico Madrid tonight, however, there is a cloud of doubt around his participation as he has not completely recovered from the thigh injury he suffered against Getafe.
A lot has been said about Ancelotti’s selection dilemma heading into the Madrid derby, especially in defence. After all, Rudiger’s absence would force Ferland Mendy to play at centre-back, leaving the team with no direct option to fill at left-back.
According to reports from AS (h/t Madrid Xtra), Rudiger is pushing to play tonight. He really wants to take to the field for the grand fixture and even arrived at the training centre this morning for a check.
A final decision, however, will only be taken in the hours leading up to the match. Needless to say, Ancelotti will not risk the player if he is not fully fit looking at the bigger picture.
Camavinga to the rescue
Fran Garcia’s untimely injury and Aurelien Tchouameni’s suspension leave Real Madrid in a spot of bother.
After all, Ferland Mendy is the squad’s next best option to join Nacho Fernandez in defence, but his role in defence would leave the team with no left-back.
Eduardo Camavinga, thus, could be the trump card Ancelotti requires. If the Frenchman can operate at left-back as he has numerous times before, the balance on the field would be optimal for Real Madrid.
A lot rides on how the manager opts to play his cards, and Rudiger’s position dictates the same.
Ancelotti considering playing a makeshift centre-back pairing for Real Madrid against Valencia – report
Real Madrid will take on Valencia on Saturday, looking to maintain their solid lead at the top of the league table.
The Spanish giants are leading the standing with a six-point lead over Girona. A win against Valencia could help them solidify their position at the top while potentially opening up an opportunity to extend the lead to more than six points.
Heading into this game, though, Carlo Ancelotti is facing multiple setbacks, especially in the defensive unit, with Eder Militao, David Alaba and Thibaut Courtois still missing due to injuries.
This will once again put pressure on Ancelotti, as far as the team selection is concerned.
Rudiger & Tchouameni to partner at centre-back vs Valencia
Fortunately for the Real Madrid coach, much of his experimentations this season have worked, including Aurelien Tchouameni’s supreme performances at centre-back.
With that in mind, Diario AS reports Ancelotti is considering playing a makeshift central defensive pair against Valencia, comprising Antonio Rudiger and Tchouameni.
This is not the first time the young Frenchman will have to accompany Rudiger at centre-back. He did so earlier in the year when Real Madrid took on RCD Mallorca.
Interestingly, Real Madrid were able to retain a clean sheet, with Rudiger scoring the winning goal, in a narrow 1-0 victory.
What are Ancelotti’s other options?
Ancelotti will be hoping for a similar outcome this time around. However, it must be noted that the Italian will be boosted by the return of Dani Carvajal from suspension.
The veteran Spaniard can be an option at centre-back. But given the way how Tchouameni has impressed onlookers with his performances at centre-back, there is very little reason why he shouldn’t continue in the position.
Tchouameni has even been compared to Javier Mascherano by former Spanish coach Roberto Moreno.
Other than Carvajal, though, Nacho Fernandez is another option for Ancelotti. But the veteran defender is suffering with discomfort and Ancelotti has no plans to risk it.