The UEFA Champions League returns to action this week after a long hiatus. The biggest clash in the round of 16 fixtures is undoubtedly Real Madrid’s face-off against Paris Saint-Germain.
While both teams have dominated their respective domestic leagues, they will have to fight tooth and nail when they meet next week.
However, Carlo Ancelotti has a problem on his hands. Casemiro and Ferland Mendy are both just a booking away from being suspended. This implies that if either of them is booked in the first leg at Paris, they would be unavailable for the second leg at the Bernabeu.
Casemiro has been part of one of the world’s best midfield combinations alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kross over the past seasons. The trio continues to dominate the game even today, and the Brazilian’s absence would come as a big blow to Ancelotti’s plans.
Given his delicate situation, one could expect Ferland Mendy to start on the bench in Paris. This would not only enable Marcelo to play the first leg but keep Mendy fresh and raring for the second leg.
Real Madrid and PSG are contenders to win the competition but have both strayed off-track in recent weeks. The hiccup from Los Blancos was minor as they tied Elche and lost to Athletic Club in successive games. Against Granada, they struggled to create chances but eventually pulled away with a nervy win.
Meanwhile, PSG were eliminated from their domestic cup by OGC Nico before returning with a bang against OSC Lille. The Parisians scored five on the night as Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe put up a masterclass.
Ancelotti considering playing a makeshift centre-back pairing for Real Madrid against Valencia – report
Real Madrid will take on Valencia on Saturday, looking to maintain their solid lead at the top of the league table.
The Spanish giants are leading the standing with a six-point lead over Girona. A win against Valencia could help them solidify their position at the top while potentially opening up an opportunity to extend the lead to more than six points.
Heading into this game, though, Carlo Ancelotti is facing multiple setbacks, especially in the defensive unit, with Eder Militao, David Alaba and Thibaut Courtois still missing due to injuries.
This will once again put pressure on Ancelotti, as far as the team selection is concerned.
Rudiger & Tchouameni to partner at centre-back vs Valencia
Fortunately for the Real Madrid coach, much of his experimentations this season have worked, including Aurelien Tchouameni’s supreme performances at centre-back.
With that in mind, Diario AS reports Ancelotti is considering playing a makeshift central defensive pair against Valencia, comprising Antonio Rudiger and Tchouameni.
This is not the first time the young Frenchman will have to accompany Rudiger at centre-back. He did so earlier in the year when Real Madrid took on RCD Mallorca.
Interestingly, Real Madrid were able to retain a clean sheet, with Rudiger scoring the winning goal, in a narrow 1-0 victory.
What are Ancelotti’s other options?
Ancelotti will be hoping for a similar outcome this time around. However, it must be noted that the Italian will be boosted by the return of Dani Carvajal from suspension.
The veteran Spaniard can be an option at centre-back. But given the way how Tchouameni has impressed onlookers with his performances at centre-back, there is very little reason why he shouldn’t continue in the position.
Tchouameni has even been compared to Javier Mascherano by former Spanish coach Roberto Moreno.
Other than Carvajal, though, Nacho Fernandez is another option for Ancelotti. But the veteran defender is suffering with discomfort and Ancelotti has no plans to risk it.