Real Madrid returned to winning ways after their draw against Rayo Vallecano as a goal each from Brahim Diaz, Rodrygo, and Vinicius Jr saw them register a 3-0 win against SC Braga in the Champion League, and qualifying to the Round of 16.
The goal is to keep the momentum alive and put the pressure on Girona, who are surprisingly on top of La Liga as it stands. Madrid could go top this weekend if Girona drop points against Rayo Vallecano.
For that, though, they will have to overcome Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu in one of the most mouth-watering Spanish fixtures of the last decade.
After a few years of flirting with relegation, Valencia seem to be on their way up again under Ruben Baraja. They have won five of their 12 games so far this season, and are unbeaten in their last five across all competitions.
With Barcelona breathing down his neck, Carlo Ancelotti understands there is no scope to slip up again, and will be line up with the best starting lineup available at his disposal tomorrow.
Defence: Nacho replaces Rudiger
Madrid were dealt with uncomfortable news this week as Kepa Arrizalabaga picked up an injury in training and was ruled out for two weeks.
Andriy Lunin replaced him in goal against Braga, and put in a rather solid performance, saving a penalty in the first-half. He will continue as the keeper tomorrow, too.
Ancelotti does not have the services of Antonio Rudiger at his disposal tomorrow after the German picked up his fifth yellow card of the season already against Vallecano. He will likely be replaced by Nacho in central defence.
The Real Madrid captain should partner David Alaba in the backline, with no other first-team CBs available in the squad right now.
Daniel Carvajal‘s presence, therefore, becomes very important for Madrid. He will continue at right-back, but could be called upon to put in a shift as a centre-back if push comes to shove.
Fran Garcia is expected to replace Ferland Mendy at left-back, after yet another underwhelming display from the Frenchman this midweek.
Midfield: Modric gets a start
Toni Kroos has been in and out of the starting lineup all season, but will likely start from the bench tomorrow after playing the entire 90 minutes against Braga. Luka Modric should replace him in the centre of the park.
With Aurelien Tchouameni injured, Ancelotti will, in all probability, retain the services of Eduardo Camavinga as the defensive midfielder, while Federico Valverde partners Modric as the other interior.
Jude Bellingham got some long overdue rest this week, and was not called up from the bench either with Madrid winning rather comfortably. The Englishman will, however, return to the lineup, as the attacking midfielder.
Attack: Brazil firepower
Rodrygo played arguably his best game of the season so far against Braga, scoring and assisting a goal each. Ancelotti knows more than anyone that the youngster needs to start in an attempt to regain his confidence and momentum.
While Joselu is in contention to start again, we expect Vinicius Jr to be given the nod once again after an impressive showing against Braga, where he, too, scored and assisted, while creating seven chances.
Vinicius · Rodrygo
Modric · Camavinga · Valverde
Garcis · Alaba · Nacho · Carvajal
Brahim Diaz should be one of the first names off the bench tomorrow after a solid display in the UCL, where he scored the opener for Madrid. Toni Kroos, too, will almost definitely given minutes regardless of the match condition.
Nico Paz was handed his debut against Braga, and could be called off the bench once again. Joselu, too, will be relied upon, especially since it is crucial to keep him match fit as the only striker in the squad.
Official: Real Madrid starting lineup against Napoli | UCL GW 5
Real Madrid are back in the Champions League following their impressive win against Cadiz on the weekend as they host Napoli at the Santiago Bernabeu for gameweek five.
They have already secured qualification to the round of 16, and even a point today would secure first place in the group.
With several players still injured, Carlo Ancelotti has opted for his best available starting lineup, with Daniel Carvajal taking responsibility of the captain’s armband at right-back. He will be aided by Ferland Mendy, who starts on the other side.
Meanwhile, in between them, David Alaba returns to the fold as the starting centre-back, partnering Antonio Rudiger. This duo has the responsibility of screening Andriy Lunin, who continues in goal in Kepa and Thibaut Courtois’ absence.
With both Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni out, Toni Kroos gets the chance to play as the holding midfielder for two games in a row. Federico Valverde retains his spot, as well, while Dani Ceballos comes in for the injured Luka Modric in central midfield.
Rodrygo will spearhead the team’s frontline as one of the two twin forwards, while Brahim Diaz gets the nod over Joselu. Jude Bellingham is the final, and arguably the most important piece of the puzzle, playing behind the front-two.
Confirmed Madrid XI: Lunin; Carvajal, Rudiger, Alaba, Mendy; Valverde, Kroos, Ceballos; Bellingham; Diaz, Rodrygo