Real Madrid will look to secure top spot in Group C of the UEFA Champions League when they take on Serie A champions Napoli at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.
Los Blancos are currently leading the charge in Group C and are already qualified for the knockout stages, following their win against SC Braga earlier this month.
And a win or a draw against Walter Mazzarri’s Partenopei tomorrow would ascertain Real Madrid’s progression as group leaders.
But they will have to make do without as many as eight players against Napoli, with the midfield department the worst hit of all.
Dani Ceballos set for a start
As such, journalist Melchor Ruiz of COPE is reporting that injury-prone midfielder Dani Ceballos is set to start for Real Madrid against Napoli tomorrow at the Bernabeu.
It must be remembered that the Merengues lost Aurelien Tchouameni to an injury last month while Eduardo Camavinga was put on the treatment tables during the recent international break.
On top of that, Luka Modric suffered a minor injury during last weekend’s game against Cadiz and is out of the game as well.
It leaves Carlo Ancelotti with only a handful of senior options in midfield, of which Toni Kroos is expected to start as the pivot, and Jude Bellingham will operate as the attacking midfielder.
As such, tomorrow, the two interior midfield positions are expected to be taken up by Ceballos and Federico Valverde.
Injury issues for Ceballos
It has been a difficult season for Ceballos right after he signed a new contract with Real Madrid during the summer.
An injury early in the pre-season meant that the 27-year-old missed a good chunk of the early parts of the campaign.
Just as he made his return and was getting some minutes, another injury struck, sidelining him for an extended period again.
Ceballos only made his return to action this past weekend against Cadiz, coming on as a substitute. Now, he will likely get a chance to start against Napoli and the ex-Real Betis ace will be eager to make the most of it.
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.