Real Madrid will lock horns with RB Leipzig later tonight in the UEFA Champions League at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The Merengues have won all their matches so far this season across all competitions and will be hoping to extend that run when they come up against the Bundesliga outfit.
And a lot will be riding on the young shoulders of Vinicius Jr, who has to don the mantle of being Real Madrid’s main attacking threat in the absence of captain and star striker, Karim Benzema.
And, RB Leipzig manager Marco Rose, who took over the reins of the club only last week, is well aware of the threat that the 22-year-old Brazilian dynamo will pose.
Speaking to the media ahead of the game (h/t AS), Rose admitted that Vinicius will be a handful for his team to deal with, as he said: “He is a young player, he has continued to improve and is decisive. He shoots at goal and if one is not aware he scores goals.
“We already know how he plays, that he looks for depth, that he is good in duels. It is difficult to defend him. He’s a very good player and you have to be careful with him.”
At the same time, Rose added that it would be foolish for RB Leipzig to focus so much on Vinicius that they ignore the other quality players that Real Madrid possess, saying:
“We have to avoid that at all costs. Not only Vinicius there are other players who have to be covered with very special qualities. Even if Benzema is missing, there are other players like David Alaba who are dangerous.”
Further talking about Vinicius and how he tends to get under the skin of opposition with his box of skills and trickery, Rose insisted that the Brazilian has loads of technical quality, but his team can stop him.
“Vinicius is excellent. He is good at a technical level, but we know what is coming at us, how he moves, that he looks for depth and it is difficult to defend him. If we do it well, we know we can neutralize him,” he said.
At the same time, he also named several other players who can pose problems for the German outfit, saying:
“There are others who are also very complicated: Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, David Alaba… Guys we know and we know make an excellent team. Valverde has just scored a goal leaving seven people behind.”
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.