Real Madrid is back! Two weeks of World Cup qualifying matches interrupted club competitions across the globe, but this Saturday the white knights return to their hallowed arena in the quest for three more precious points. Facing off against the royals is Málaga, a side that was quite formidable last year but has since lost a significant number of key players.
Carlo Ancelotti has had two weeks to reflect on what's been going right for his team but more importantly what's been going wrong. Real Madrid barely survived two scares against Levante and Elche, and the fans are beginning to question why this team of galactic athletes is finding it so difficult to put away games against weaker sides.
Ancelotti stated Friday that the players understand what went wrong in their last matches and will not repeat the same mistakes against Málaga. Ideally, this means the players will work harder to keep a clean sheet and demonstrate urgency and energy from the first whistle rather than after conceding the first goal. It also means a more balanced and efficient system of play that can shut down opponents defensively while getting the most out of offensive dynamos like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema. Hopefully, tomorrow's game will mark a step in the right direction after a topsy-turvy start to the league campaign.
Predicting Ancelotti's full starting XI is tricky but Carletto said he'll give priority to players who did not participate in the FIFA break. The boss has revealed he will start Illara, Khedira and Isco, but could the likes of Jese and Casemiro grace the grass of the Santiago Bernabéu at some point during the match? It's a tough call, but it seems safe to say that Gareth Bale will make an appearance against Málaga. Carletto trusts the Welshman to be fit after a thigh strain and hopes the winger can get some minutes under his belt. If Cristiano Ronaldo and Ángel di María start the match, it's not impossible that they be relieved by the likes of Jese and Gareth Bale if Real Madrid are leading by a comfortable margin. Here are the names of the players Carlo Ancelotti has called up:
Goalies: Casillas, Diego López and Jesús.
Defenders: Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Carvajal, Marcelo, Arbeloa, Coentrão and Nacho.
Midfielders: Khedira, Casemiro, Modric, Di María, Isco, Illarra and Bale.
Forwards: Ronaldo, Benzema, Jesé and Morata.
So, friends, who do you think will start the match, and what do you hope to see from your favorite team? What adjustments do you think Ancelotti will have made following the Levante match? Let us know in the comments section below.
And as always, Hala Madrid!
Real Madrid vs. Málaga kicks-off Saturday, October 19 at 16:00 CET/ 10:00 am EST/ 7:00 am PST.
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