After a thrilling first leg that ended in a whopping seven-goal encounter, Manchester City edged out Real Madrid 4-3 in the Champions League semi-finals. The second leg is set to go ahead at the Santiago Bernabeu, and Madrid’s starting lineup has been released for the same.
Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr are among the first names on the team sheet after the season they have been having. They start centrally and on the left-wing, with Federico Valverde set to start on the right-wing.
In midfield, Toni Kroos starts alongside Luka Modric, with Casemiro returning as the defensive midfielder after missing the first leg due to injury.
There is a major change in defence as the injured David Alaba has been replaced by Nacho Fernandez. Eder Militao continues alongside the Spaniard as the central defender, while Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy provide width from the back as the right and left fullbacks respectively.
Thibaut Courtois is the final and arguably the most important piece in the puzzle, and will be key in keeping the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez out of goal.
Confirmed Madrid XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Nacho, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius
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.