Diego Lopez and one point separate Real Madrid from the 2021/22 La Liga title today. Los Blancos host Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu today in a game that could crown Marcelo as the most decorated player to wear the royal white.
Speaking of, Marcelo starts at left-back today, with Lucas Vazquez on the opposite flank. With David Alaba, Eder Militao, and Nacho Fernandez out, Jesus Vallejo gets the nod at cente-back along with Casemiro.
Thibaut Courtois, starting in goal, is undoubtedly the most important part of this make-shift defence.
The midfield has some changes as well with Dani Ceballos coming in for a second consecutive league start. Eduardo Camavinga takes his place as the defensive midfielder, and Luka Modric rounds off the trident in the centre of the park.
The entire frontline has been shuffled from the Manchester City game, with Mariano replacing Karim Benzema as the centre-forward. Marco Asensio comes in on the right-wing, while Rodrygo gets the chance in his favourable left-wing position after a long time.
Confirmed Real Madrid XI: Courtois; Vazquez, Casemiro, Vallejo, Marcelo; Modric, Camavinga, Ceballos; Asensio, Mariano, Rodrygo
Key Real Madrid defender still not 100% fit ahead of Club World Cup semi-final – report
Carlo Ancelotti heads into the FIFA Club World Cup in a pressure cooker situation. The pressure on the manager’s shoulders is immense, for his job could be on the line after Real Madrid’s poor run of form.
The injury situation does not favour the Italian tactician either. Lucas Vazquez, Ferland Mendy, Karim Benzema, Eder Militao and even Thibaut Courtois are out of the semi-final against Al Ahly, leaving him very few options to play with.
According to reports from Jorge C Picon, David Alaba too is not completely fit yet. The Austrian International was given the medical all-clear and entered the squad for Real Madrid’s game against Mallorca, yet started on the bench as he was not at 100%, and that remains the case ahead of tonight’s clash.
The report, however, adds that his mere inclusion in the squad comes as a breather for Ancelotti. Alaba is highly valued by the technical staff, not only for his reading of the game on the field but also for his leadership.
The defender has already missed seven games for Los Blancos since sustaining a muscular injury against Villarreal at La Ceramica. He did indeed come off the bench for under half an hour against Mallorca, but will likely not be risked to start on Thursday.
In his absence, Nacho Fernandez and Antonio Rudiger are expected to take centre stage in defence in Morocco. Eduardo Camavinga, meanwhile, could start as left-back again.
Alaba has played 17 games for Los Blancos this season and was one of the players with the most minutes until his injury. In his league campaign so far, he has scored one goal and provided three assists while also averaging a key pass every ninety minutes.
It remains to be seen if the Austrian recovers completely in time for the Club World Cup final should the European Champions make it. As it stands, using a cautious approach is in Real Madrid’s best interest.