Madrid have won 20 straight. They're four points clear in La Liga. This morning they were drawn their most favorable opponent in the Champions League. And now, they have a chance to go out and add another trophy to this year's tally. To say life is good for Real Madrid right now would be putting it lightly.
Before you do anything, go ahead and read Marco's scouting report on Cruz Azul. That will give you a fair preview of what to expect from the Mexican side. In a nutshell, they're a gritty, pragmatic side, and they'll probably ramp up these tactics even more against Real. Cruz Azul manager Luis Fernando Tena will go down to the lot and drive off in the largest bus he can find.
Cruz Azul excel in their own third. Their keeper Jesús Corona is backed up by a competent defense, and if the match remained in Rabat, it would've greatly favored Cruz Azul. Instead, the match has been moved out of the swamp and to Marrakech. Their biggest attacking threat is Marco Fabián. He'll be the one driving the Azul attack, and he's even a 2014 Puskás Award nominee with this wonder-strike. As Marco points out in the scouting report, their finishers are brutal, and even if Ancelotti sends out a reserve defensive unit, Madrid should have no problems stifling Azul's attack.
Speaking of Madrid's squad, it's hard to guess how Ancelotti will approach this match, and the entire CWC for that matter. Here's what we know:
James Rodríguez and Sami Khedira will not be available for this match. Ancelotti said he has decided who will be in net, but did not specify. He also said he values Chicharito, and is "unsure of how many minutes" he'll get against many of his Mexico NT teammates. Nearly the entire squad outside of Luka Modrić are in Morocco.
We also know Toni Kroos, James, Casillas, and Ronaldo lead the team in minutes played. One has to imagine Kroos will get a least a little rest here, but it's hard to see a scenario in which Ancelotti rests Ronaldo on such a big stage. Given the match is the day after Keylor Navas' birthday, maybe Ancelotti will gift him a start? We've never seen Ancelotti's Madrid in this competition, and he's being his usual tight-lipped self in relation to his lineup.
The European side in the Club World Cup is always the favorite, and there's certainly more to be lost than gained in this competition. Given the season, location, and competition, it'd be easy for the team to treat this like an early vacation, but it should be business as usual for Ancelotti and his men.
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Projected starting XI: Casillas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Illarramendi, Kroos, Isco; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
Prediction: 4-0 to Madrid.
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