Since the eleventh of September, Real Madrid have played 5 games in 14 days and are about to play their sixth game on the trot with a minimal gap for the players to recover. Even before the game against Celta Vigo, the players didn’t have a great deal of rest, particularly the South Americans returning from international duty.
In a season that spans over 9 months, it is important to rotate the team and rest players from time to time. Workload management is very important for every player, and every top manager understands its importance. The way Zidane used Cristiano Ronaldo between 2016 and 2018, resting him for clashes against bottom-half teams in LaLiga and keeping him fresh for the big games, was an important factor behind the Portuguese’ individual success and Real Madrid’s success in Europe.
Real Madrid are still in the early phase of the season, with seven LaLiga matchdays completed and only one Champions League played. But there’s still a need for Carlo Ancelotti to consider resting some players, due to the tight schedule. The game against FC Sheriff Tiraspol match may be the one where Don Carlo will have some freedom to rotate, with an away fixture against Espanyol coming up, which is always a tough fixture.
This isn’t to undermine the quality of FC Sheriff. The fact that they’re in the Champions League itself is a testament to the quality they possess and the challenge they can pose. But Real Madrid have a world-class team, and they are a club that will always field eleven top-class players on the pitch. Rotation shouldn’t be a problem for Carlo Ancelotti, and he should be courageous enough to rest some key players. So let us have a look at some of the players who can be rested for tomorrow’s game against Sheriff.
In any football club, goalkeeper would be the player who’s rotated the least number of times. But they have to make difficult saves and focus on every player in front of their eyes, but since they don’t have to cover all the distance that is covered by an outfield player, we often see goalkeepers playing many games in a row.
This is why we don’t get to see a lot of minutes for second-choice goalkeepers on football clubs, unless there’s an injury crisis. And at a club like Real Madrid who are known for their ability to have one of the best players in the world in each position, the life of a second choice keeper becomes even tougher. Andriy Lunin’s life is the same at this point in time, as he has played just 120 minutes ever since he returned to Real Madrid in 2020.
On the other hand, the number 1 of Real Madrid, Thibaut Courtois has played every LaLiga game and Champions League game for Real Madrid since the beginning of the 2020/21 season. He’s Roberto Martinez’s first-choice keeper in the Belgium National team as well, with him having to play almost two games every 6-7 days.
We can’t comment on the physical stress he might be enduring, but he needs some rest to recover from the mental exhaustion he has to endure after every 90 minutes spent on the pitch. He does need some rest at times, and hopefully, that day might be Tuesday.
And I want to see Courtois on the bench against Sheriff, only to see Andriy Lunin get some playing time. He has never complained about his lack of game time and he has shown utmost professionalism both on and off the field. It is something that Carlo Ancelotti has notices as well, and he has said that he will use Lunin soon. Maybe Don Carlo can reward Lunin with a start in the first home game of the Champions League, this season.
Of course, there’s no scope for slipups in Champions League. But mind you, Andriy Lunin is a top-class keeper, and there shouldn’t be any doubts about his quality. If he’s given a chance, he would try to make the best use of it and showcase his abilities to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.