Carlo Ancelotti has been very candid when responding to questions regarding Real Madrid’s team selection. During the first few games in August, when Vinícius Júnior was scoring goals off the bench, Ancelotti was asked whether the Brazilian will start. This is what he had to say:
“It’s clear that he (Vini Jr.) wins a starting spot like this, with three goals in two games. He will start the next game, maybe, we will see. Today Vinícius has determined it (the game) with his freshness and ability.”
Following Real Madrid’s 5-0 rout of Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League, the Italian coach was once again asked about his team selection for the El Clásico in the post-match press conference. Rodrygo, who has emerged as the first-choice right winger in recent games, found the back of the net against the Ukrainian side. Here are his comments on the 20-year-old:
“Rodrygo did his job in the game. I liked his work in defence and on the counter a lot. I don’t know if he’ll start against Barcelona but when you play like that it’s hard to change things.”
These statements from the manager are an indication that he is not worried about letting the world know who will be playing, although he does ensure he doesn’t completely reveal his plans. However, he also instills a lot of confidence into his players by acknowledging their performance(s) in the public, something which has definitely helped the young Brazilian pairing, both of whom find themselves as undroppable pieces of Real Madrid’s attack alongside Karim Benzema. For now at least.
The game against Osasuna, on the contrary, provides Carletto the perfect opportunity to test his bench strength. He hasn’t hinted at any rotations prior to the game, but I strongly believe we will see a few key players getting rested for the game. That opens up the door for three players to get an important start under their belts.
Andriy Lunin (GK)
Thibaut Courtois has played 47 consecutive league games since Andriy Lunin’s return to Real Madrid from Real Oviedo at the beginning of the 2020-21 season. Courtois played all but one game in the entirety of last season in all competitions, when Lunin started against third-tier side Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey. That remains Lunin’s only official appearance for Real Madrid since joining the team in the summer of 2018.
Three and a half years after landing in the Spanish capital, the Ukrainian has been sent on loan to three different teams. And when you include that sole appearance for Los Blancos in the Copa del Rey last season, he has made merely 30 appearances ever since his switch from Zorya Luhansk. That’s only 5 more than what he accumulated in his debut senior season in 2016-17.
Ancelotti has stated that Lunin will be given the opportunities he deserves. He had a very good pre-season, putting in a fantastic display against AC Milan. And now the game vs. Osasuna provides the FIFA U20 World Cup winner to show his quality.
Not only does playing Lunin give him the chance to showcase his ability, but also helps Thibaut Courtois some much-needed rest, who seemed to have had an issue with his knee against Barcelona, later revealed to be not so serious. Courtois is one of the most important players in the team and maybe it’s time he gets a game off to shrug off any injury concerns.
Eduardo Camavinga (CM/CDM)
The Frenchman was signed on deadline day and had a phenomenal start to his Real Madrid, grabbing a goal and an assist in his first two games. All that form has fizzled out over the last few games though. He started the game in Los Blancos’ 2-1 loss to Espanyol right before the international break, where he played as the left midfielder in a 4-4-2 setup.
He did not feature against Barcelona at all, but he could and should get a start against Osasuna. Midfield stalwart Luka Modrić could be afforded rest since Toni Kroos has just returned from injury, while Casemiro skipped national duty, meaning he is fit too.
Camavinga is just 18 years old. But such is the situation in midfield at the moment that he will keep getting a lot of playing time. What makes things better for Camavinga from a playing time standpoint is the latest injury to Fede Valverde, who is expected to miss a few weeks.
With the schedule condensing (Real Madrid play 4 games in the next 10 days before another international break: Osasuna, Elche, Shakhtar Donetsk, and Rayo Vallecano), Eduardo Camavinga will be a vital rotational piece of Carlo’s squad, and his test is expected to begin against Osasuna.
Luka Jovic (CF)
With rumours of Serie A giants Inter Milan looking at the possibility of swooping Luka Jović, we might not get to see enough of the Serbian in the Royal White. Ancelotti has given Jović appearances – all from the bench – that total up to 84 minutes. Jović has managed to record an assist in those 84 minutes.
Given that he is just returning from injury (he wasn’t in the squad against Barcelona), it might be a stretch to imagine the former Eintracht Frankfurt man to get the nod ahead of Karim Benzema. But with a lot of rotations expected, as I mentioned earlier, it might be a good time to hand Jović the start he deserves, even if it’s apparent that he won’t be able to complete the 90 minutes.
Jović has performed well during those cameos, coming close to scoring several times. His movement and positioning have been good, while we all know he can be a lethal ball-carrier in transition. Granting the Serbian a start against Osasuna might help the player find the back of the net, although it should be noted that Osasuna have begun the season very well (they sit in 6th position).
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Can these players live up to the Real Madrid billing?
Ancelotti is yet to have all the members of the squad available at once, but he has somehow managed to instill some sort of balance in the team after the international break, and that can be attributed to the coach sticking to a 4-3-3 formation which has helped the team strike the right balance between offence and defence.
The three players mentioned in the piece (one of them being a goalkeeper) fit perfectly in a 4-3-3 setup, hence allowing Carletto to field an XI with these players without tinkering with the tactics or formation.
Let’s hope these players can get the start they deserve (or rather need) and contribute towards another Real Madrid victory in the league.