Real Madrid will be aiming to book their place in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League when they face SC Braga in their fourth Group C encounter of the 2023/24 campaign.
Having defeated the Portuguese outfit away from home in their last European fixture, Los Blancos will be aiming to do the job again in the comforts of the Santiago Bernabeu later tonight.
There will be the added motivation of bouncing back strongly after the disappointing goalless draw against Rayo Vallecano in La Liga, which has seen them drop down to second place in the table.
Real Madrid go into the game without four players – Aurelien Tchouameni, Dani Ceballos, Eder Militao, and Thibaut Courtois, all of whom are out injured.
Jude Bellingham has been named in the squad despite suffering from a dislocated shoulder, although a call on his involvement will be taken much closer to the game.
Even though Carlo Ancelotti has plans to rotate his troops, the manager will look to set out a strong team that will get the job done tonight.
Kepa Arrizabalaga is the undisputed starter between the sticks for Real Madrid in the absence of Thibaut Courtois and will once again feature tonight against SC Braga.
There could be some alterations in defence, starting with Lucas Vazquez getting a look-in at right-back at the expense of Dani Carvajal. Fran Garcia, though, is expected to continue on the left side.
Antonio Rudiger will once again start at the heart of the defence, especially considering that he is suspended for the upcoming La Liga game vs Valencia. David Alaba, though, could be given a breather, with captain Nacho Fernandez getting the nod instead.
With Bellingham’s availability uncertain, there is a solid possibility that Ancelotti could turn to a three-man midfield unit tonight, reverting to a 4-3-3 formation he used in the past.
Eduardo Camavinga will continue to slot in as the defensive midfielder for Real Madrid in the absence of his compatriot Aurelien Tchouameni.
Federico Valverde has been an ever-present in the team for the Merengues and should start as an interior midfielder against Braga, with Toni Kroos partnering him, after not starting against Rayo over the wekeend.
Along with Kroos, Rodrygo Goes is another player who could return to the starting XI vs Braga, potentially slotting in on the right wing. His compatriot, Vinicius Jr., ought to start on his natural left-wing position, with Joselu set to spearhead the Real Madrid attack.
There have been a lot of questions about Ancelotti and his reluctance to use Brahim Diaz this season, but the Spaniard could finally get some minutes later tonight against Braga.
Meanwhile, new signing Arda Guler could finally be set to play his first-ever game for Real Madrid since arriving in the summer. Young academy jewel, Nico Paz, could possibly be another debutant for Real Madrid after being called up to the squad once again.
Veteran midfielder Luka Modric is certain to get some minutes in the second half of the game as well.
Rodrygo, Ceballos start in a 4-4-2: How Real Madrid could line up against Napoli
Real Madrid will be eager to lock down the top spot in Group C of the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League when they host Napoli at the Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow night.
Los Blancos are already through to the knockout stages of the competition, having won each of their four matches so far, and have a five-point lead over second-placed Napoli.
A win or a draw tomorrow would ensure Carlo Ancelotti & co. progress through as the group winners, irrespective of what happens in their final game against Union Berlin next month.
The injury list, though, continues to grow for Real Madrid as Luka Modric has joined the seven other casualties – Vinicius Jr., Eduardo Camavinga, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Aurelien Tchouameni, Arda Guler, Eder Militao, and Thibaut Courtois.
It has forced Ancelotti to dip into the academy reserves and call up young talents like Nico Paz, Mario Martin, Gonzalo Garcia, and Theo Zidane, the son of club Zinedine Zidane.
There will be some changes made to the team that took the field against Cadiz last time out and here’s how Real Madrid could line up against Walter Mazzarri’s Napoli.
With Kepa Arrizabalaga still not ready, Andriy Lunin will once again get a starter in between the sticks for Real Madrid and will be eager to carry forward his good run of form.
Dani Carvajal should continue at right-back ahead of Lucas Vazquez, who will get an opportunity in the coming games with Ancelotti expected to rotate. Ferland Mendy is also expected to retain his place at left-back ahead of Fran Garcia.
David Alaba should return to the starting XI after featuring from the bench against Cadiz. He will pair up with Antonio Rudiger and try to keep the dangerous Victor Osimhen quiet, provided the latter is fit to feature.
Given the lack of resources in midfield, Ancelotti has no choice but to continue with Toni Kroos at the base of the four-man diamond formation while star man Jude Bellingham, who had tormented Napoli in the reverse fixture, starts at the tip.
Dani Ceballos is all set to make his first start of the season as one of the interior midfielders, replacing the injured Modric. Federico Valverde will be the fourth man in the middle for Real Madrid against the Partenopei.
Up top, there is simply no looking past Rodrygo Goes, who is starting to hit top form in recent weeks. The Brazilian will once again likely be paired up with Joselu in the absence of Vinicius Jr.
Real Madrid Predicted XI: Lunin, Carvajal, Rudiger, Alaba, Mendy, Kroos, Valverde, Ceballos, Bellingham, Joselu, Rodrygo.
Brahim Diaz is back fit after missing the Cadiz game due to illness and he is expected to get some minutes off the bench as Ancelotti would look to give a breather to Rodrygo or Bellingham.
Gonzalo Garcia made his first-team debut for Real Madrid this past weekend and could get his Champions League bow as a late sub against Napoli while fellow academy aces Nico Paz and Mario Martin could also get some minutes in midfield.