David Alaba — an undisputed starter in Carlo Ancelotti’s Once de Gala, has been out injured since January 9. When fit, the Alaba - Eder Militao pair remained non-negotiable for Real Madrid.
During Alaba’s injury this month, Madrid has endured mixed results in Alaba's absence as Antonio Rudiger received an extended run in the starting XI.
While the Austrian star was out, apart from the disaster vs. Barcelona in Saudi Arabia, the team has enjoyed a remontada vs. Villarreal, a win vs. Atletico, and a couple of clean sheets vs. the two Basque sides — Athletic Club and Real Sociedad.
Alaba is still not fit to resume training with the team. Even when he becomes healthy again, Alaba may slot straight into the left-back position as Ferland Mendy is out for the next two months. This would allow the Militao - Rudiger pair to continue for an extended period. The parte medico tragedy struck Real Madrid again as Militao went off injured vs. Valencia. The anticipation, however, is that his return could be sooner than Mendy's.
Militao has been lights-out good in the recent month or so. He has been unlucky that the team’s overall performance hasn’t been aligned with his valiant efforts at the back. Apart from the Brazilian center-back’s individual brilliance, his partnership with Antonio Rudiger has also been solid. This pair now has a big enough sample size that can champion their case for continuation.
In the two most recent La Liga games, Real Madrid's xGA (expected goals allowed) p90 was 0.75. Real Madrid’s overall xGA p90 this season stands at 1.03. Antonio Rudiger adds some extra security and calmness at the back. He is the player with the second-most number of touches in the defensive third among all outfield players of the Real Madrid squad this season, just behind Militao.
Rudiger is among the top three players in the squad for aerial duals won — behind Militao and Tchouameni. He is also among the top three defenders in the team in terms of balls recovered — behind David Alaba and Militao. Real Madrid's defensive line has been decimated by injuries with Militao’s ailment being the latest. The club has a brutal schedule ahead where every grain of stability has to be maximized.
The Militao-Rudiger pair benefits the team in defensive assurance without compromising much in attack since Madrid can benefit from Alaba’s left-back presence in the final third. Even Eduardo Camavinga has demonstrated enough to be trusted at left-back if no other options are available.
It will be interesting to see what is Carlo Ancelotti’s gala XI when (or if) everyone is available for selection during this final sprint of the season.