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Isco and Di María for one spot in Lisbon

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Although Di María's participation in the Champions League final should not be compromised by his recent injury, Ancelotti could still choose Isco over him for a different setup against Atlético.

Both going at it quite hard. Who you got, Carlo?
Both going at it quite hard. Who you got, Carlo?
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao; Alonso, Modrić, Di María; Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema.

I guess that's pretty much the starting XI we all had in mind a couple of weeks ago when we looked towards a potential UCL final, full of hope but also afraid of the huge challenge that Bayern presented. Since then, we have ridden a roller coaster that took us up to the sky first with that 0-5 aggregate victory in the semifinal, then brought us straight back down to earth--or a little lower--with the last two league games, where Madrid basically lost all chance to become champion.

The final is fifteen days away and it should be the team's only target now, so Ancelotti has a huge amount of time to prepare for it. Unfortunately, it is not going to be an easy task since his roster is far from being totally available. As we have already pointed out, Pepe and Di María have joined a list of casualties that seems to be endless. Pepe's absence in the final could be dramatic, especially considering how Varane is far from his best condition, but we are not going to discuss that just now. The Fideo, however, seems easier to replace since Isco would be ready to take his spot. But what if Di María's injury ends up, hopefully, being nothing? I still think it would be worth thinking about the possibility of leaving Di María on the bench and using Isco as a starter.

Isco vs. Di María

Although it is still unclear, I will base my analysis on the fact that Ronaldo and Bale will participate in the final and Illarramendi will be taking Alonso's spot. The match against Atlético will be highly different to the ones against Barça and Bayern, and I don't think Ancelotti would try to use the 4-4-2 against a team that is presumably not going to take care of the ball possession. Thus, my guess is that we'll go back to the 4-3-3 again, while the 4-4-2 could still show up at certain phases of the game if Atlético takes the initiative. Then, our lineup would look like this:

Real Madrid - Football tactics and formations

While the formation would remain the same no matter who the chosen one is, Real Madrid's style and intentions in the final may be determined by the Isco-Di María choice.

  • With Di María, we obtain a great physical display, his fast conductions in the left wing, and his chaotic behaviour that can break any defensive system in the flash of an eyelid. Real Madrid's attacks are wider with him, and his understanding with Coentrao and Ronaldo has proven to be fantastic so you never know who will take the wing and who will run towards the box. However, his lack of pause and his difficulties to keep the position would force Modric to take on a more conservative role. He is not the most trustworthy player when you are starting your possession, so, presumably, Real Madrid will tend to build their attacks from the right wing with Pepe-Illarra-Modric-Bale, switching to Coentrao-Fideo-Ronaldo once in Atlético's side. Then, Atlético could concentrate their pressure on our right wing and so moving on would be harder.
  • With Isco, the situation would be, essentially, the opposite. We lose some potential to press and steal the ball, and, being right-footed, it is hard for him to run close to the left wing. However, our possessions gain versatility with him on the field, since he can take turns with Modric to keep the position or approach Atlético's goal. Furthermore, with Alonso's absence, it is important to make Illarra feel confortable in first-pass situations, and having Isco on the field will always give him a double alternative to choose. In offensive situations against a close defense, he is quite an asset, since he is a great dribbler, has a fantastic vision for passes that no other of our players sees and he does not hesitate to shoot if he has a good position. And finally, he seems to have all the calm Di María lacks, as his second half in Dortmund proved.
It is, definitely, a hard decision to make. Personally, I would go for Isco, but if Alonso were on the field instead of Illarra I wouldn't be so sure about it. It's good to know that, whatever Carletto decides, he will always have an ace up his sleeve in case the game needs a twist.