So far, Real Madrid have coped well in the absence of their talismanic striker, Karim Benzema.
With Los Blancos going on to beat Celtic 3-0 in the Champions League after the Frenchman was forced off the pitch, while also dispatching Mallorca with a 4-1 victory in the following weekend, the side’s strength-in-depth has come to the fore.
As Benzema looks set to be unavailable for the European champions’ upcoming clash against RB Leipzig, it has also been revealed by Edu Aguirre (h/t Madrid Xtra) that there is no chance that he plays against Atletico Madrid on Sunday night.
Despite Diego Simeone’s men sitting in seventh place in La Liga and not particularly kickstarting the 2022/23 season in fine fashion, all rules tend to go out of the window on derby days.
While Real Madrid are one of Europe’s most feared ensembles, there is no denying that the side heavily rely on the individual brilliance of their inspirational captain to get over the line.
In a game where Atleti are expected to sit back and soak up the pressure, the absence of a gamechanger such as Karim Benzema, to breakdown the settled low-block, could potentially decide the contest.
The former Lyon marksman joins Lucas Vazquez, who currently remains injured, while Eder Militao has just re-joined training with the first-team.
On the bright side, the likes of Eden Hazard and Rodrygo have shone as the side’s false nine in the 34-year-old’s absence.
While Hazard got on the scoresheet against Celtic, it was Rodrygo in particular who looked like a man possessed in a more central role against Mallorca, setting up Vinicius Jr.’s winner and scoring a superb solo goal.
While Benzema’s injury remains a blow, other alternatives could potentially do the business in the Madrid Derby.
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.