Last week, we discussed the matter with Ecos del Balón's Abel Rojas. Now it is David de la Peña's turn. He's a football analyst for COPE and he also contributes with Ecos del Balón. A very insightful man who you can follow on his Twitter account. Here's what he thinks about Ancelotti's options.
It's a truism to state how important Xabi Alonso's absence is for Real Madrid, but it would be unfair not to do it, so it's already said! We're talking about not only the main specialist in that position for Real Madrid, but also about one of the world's greatest there. We are discussing four alternatives: Illarramendi, Khedira, Casemiro and Isco.
Illarramendi: It seems to me that considering how he has finished the season and with the memory of Dortmund's game in mind, his teammates' feelings, at least to begin with, are going to be negative. Illarra has missed some basic things like first touches, relatively easy passes and some slow decisions. The Illarramendi we've seen lately has nothing to do with Real Sociedad's. With all this said, he's the most natural replacement. Tactically, he's the best player to play in that holding position and allow other mechanisms -Modric- to retain their natural abilities. Every decision is risky -to play Illarra is risky from my personal perception- but it seems the most reasonable one for the team to play with its usual dynamics.
Khedira: Having seen him play against Celta and Espanyol, we can rule out his injury as an argument to write him off. It stands to reason that he can't be that sharp after his injury, but in terms of agility and physical presence I expected a worse Sami Khedira. So ruling out the physical part as a problem, we must separate the arguments. Positive ones: From an emotional perspective, he's an experienced player. He's not going to fail because of a mental block. The negatives: his football is especially vertical, it's an upright one. This means it cuts Modric's wings. A double pivot Modric-Khedira is perfectly sustainable but it's not what we have seen lately, and it has some details that would change Modric's game. The questions is if a Modric playing deep might suit Atlético better. I personally think that it'd be better for Real Madrid not to play Modric deep against Simeone's defensive system.Casemiro: I think he doesn't have as great chances as his teammates, but yet he has some arguments on his side. On one hand, Modric could play as a central midfielder, and on the other hand, he has never played bad when he's been given the chance -that Brazilian gene about playing in Sao Paulo when he was young...-. He doesn't have the biggest qualities, but he has his chances.Isco: It doesn't make sense to consider him an Alonso replacement, and if Ancelotti finally chooses him it would be a brave event by the Italian coach considering the context. But there's one thing that leaves a door open: Atleti give the opposition a lot of problems whenever they're defensively set. It'd be sacrificing Modric because he'd play deep, but you would have Isco playing central midfielder where his ability to dribble, imagination and talent could definitely help, so this option should not be ruled out.To summarize this, the most logical thing would be to play Illarra, but it's completely normal to have those questions about it because neither one of the replacements is perfect. There are favorable arguments for every case.