When Real Madrid brilliantly dismantled Sevilla 2-0 to win the UEFA Supercup, everything was looking in place and ready to compete for all six titles. Roughly one month after, Ancelotti and his men lost the Spanish Supercup to cross town rivals Atletico de Madrid and had the time to waste a 0-2 lead in Anoeta and lose yet another Madrid Derby in the Liga BBVA. Some fans point to Di Maria and Alonso's departures as the main reason behind Real Madrid's recent struggles, but the truth is neither one of them was on the field during Real's spectacular display against Sevilla.
Ancelotti, for instance, believes that it is all due to the players' mentality and attitude. Against FC Basel, Real Madrid will have the chance to prove they're ready to defend the European crown. The Swiss side should be manageably for players like Cristiano Ronaldo and company, and even more so at the Santiago Bernabeu. It's certain that things could get tough for Real Madrid if they aren't able to build a lead and play well considering that the home crowd are already upset about the squad's latest results. Iker Casillas and Karim Benzema were whistled during Saturday's Madrid Derby, and it will be hard for the home fans to show more patience if Bale, James, Kroos or Modric keep putting on mediocre performances. That's why Ancelotti will likely trust his Kroos-Modric-James midfield with Bale, Ronaldo and Benzema upfront, even though he could try to make some rotations and start Isco, Illarramendi or Chicharito.
Isco and Illarramendi need some confidence. Both of them have had secondary roles so far -Illarramendi has only played 5 minutes throughout the six matches played since the season started- and they should be vital sooner rather than later with Khedira injured and Di Maria gone. This could be the kind of game Ancelotti should use to give both Illarramendi and Isco some minutes, but it seems reasonable not to make experiments in order to consolidate the 4-3-3 lineup that seems to be Ancelotti's priority right now.
One way or another, this is a must-win match for Real Madrid. Even a simple and sloppy win will not be enough to bring back the feeling that this 2014-2015 Real Madrid project is for real. The spectacular, attacking display by los blancos at Cardiff is the right way to get things done. Let's hope it comes back for good against FC Basel.
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Real Madrid's Projected Lineup: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Kroos, Modric, James, Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema.
Prediction: Real Madrid 3-0 FC Basel.