Real Madrid will face Manchester City in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday night, with a place in the final at stake. The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium, with Kevin de Bruyne cancelling out Vinicius Jr’s strike. The tie is finely balanced and both teams have a chance to progress to the final, where they will meet either Inter Milan or AC Milan.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has a dilemma to solve ahead of the crucial game: what lineup should he choose to face City? He has three options to consider: 1) The same line-up as the 1st leg; 2) Starting Eder Militao and Antonio Rudiger together in defense which means David Alaba will move to left back, Eduardo Camavinga will move to midfield, Federico Valverde will more to the right wing, and Rodrygo will move to the bench; 3) The same line-up as the 1st leg except Militao will start over Rudiger. This article will analyze each option with their pros and cons.
Option 1: The same line-up as the 1st leg
The first option for Ancelotti is to stick with the same line-up that he used in the first leg. This means that Rudiger and Alaba will continue as center-backs, Camavinga will play as left-back, Valverde will partner Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in midfield, and Rodrygo will join Benzema and Vinicius Jr. in attack.
The main advantage of this option is continuity and familiarity among players. This line-up has played together several times this season and has shown good chemistry and understanding. It also offers a balance between attack and defense, with Rodrygo providing pace and creativity on the right wing, Valverde adding energy and work rate in the middle, and Camavinga offering defensive cover and support for Vinicius on the left.
However, this option also has some drawbacks. The most obvious one is that one of Eder Militao / Antonio Rudiger will be benched. Camavinga, who was a stand-out in the first leg, may be tested more defensively — especially if Pep Guardiola decides to put Riyad Mahrez on that wing.
Another weakness of this option is the lack of aerial presence in defense. Alaba is a good defender but is not very tall, and with Tchouameni and of Militao or Rudiger on the bench, Real Madrid could have trouble dealing with City’s crosses or set-pieces.
Finally, Rodrygo on the right instead of Valverde could mean Dani Carvajal gets less help against Jack Grealish defensively. Although this can be mitigated a little is Rodrygo is asked to play deeper:
Option 2: Starting Militao and Rudiger together in defense which means Alaba will move to left back, Camavinga will move to midfield, Valverde will move to the right wing, and Rodrygo will move to the bench
The second option for Ancelotti is to make some changes in his line-up and start Militao and Rudiger together in defense. This means that Alaba will move to left back, Camavinga will move to midfield, Valverde will move to the right wing, and Rodrygo will move to the bench.
The main advantage of this option is that it strengthens Madrid’s defense and gives them more solidity and height. Militao and Rudiger are both tall and strong defenders who can cope better with City’s aerial threat and physicality. They are also fast and agile enough to deal with City’s pace and movement.
Another benefit of this option is that it allows Alaba to stay on the field as well — and his experience, leadership, and ball progression is vital. Alaba is a versatile and experienced player who can play in different roles. He can offer defensive stability and offensive help. He can also link up well with Vinicius Jr.
Moreover, this option improves Madrid’s midfield and gives them more balance and dynamism. Camavinga is a gifted midfielder who can add more creativity and flair to Madrid’s engine room. He can also help Kroos and Modric with their defensive duties and press City’s midfielders. Valverde, on the other hand, can play as a right winger and provide more defensive coverage than Rodrygo.
However, this option also has some drawbacks. The most obvious one is that it changes Madrid’s system and chemistry. This line-up has not played together much and it could take some time for the players to adjust and gel. It could also disrupt Madrid’s rhythm and flow, as they have been playing with the same line-up for several games. It could also confuse the players or make them lose confidence.
Another weakness of this option is that it leaves Rodrygo out of the starting lineup. Rodrygo caused Manchester City all kinds of problems in the first leg. He could feel disappointed or frustrated by being benched, though, he could also be a useful option to bring on later in the game if Madrid need more creativity or pace.
Between the first two options, it’s a tough call. Our chief editor, Kiyan Sobhani, says benching Rodrygo could play into Pep Guardiola’s hands:
Option 3: The same line-up as the 1st leg except Militao will start over Rudiger
The third option for Ancelotti is to make only one change in his line-up and start Militao over Rudiger in defense. This means that the rest of the line-up will remain the same as the first leg, with Alaba and Militao as center-backs, Camavinga as left-back, Valverde as midfielder, and Rodrygo as right winger.
The main advantage of this option is that it maintains Madrid’s system and chemistry while maintaining their defense. This line-up has played together several times and has shown good results and performances. It also keeps the balance between attack and defense, with Rodrygo providing pace and creativity on the right wing, Valverde adding energy and work rate in the middle, and Camavinga offering defensive cover and support on the left.
Of course, the biggest risk with this decision is perhaps downgrading your defensive line. That might seem like a dramatic claim, as Militao is one of the best defenders in the world. But it has to be highlighted that Rudiger did a fantastic job marking Erling Haaland in the first leg. Can Militao step up and do just as well?
Each option has its strengths and weaknesses and could affect Madrid’s performance and chances of reaching the final. This article has analyzed each option, and reports in Spain suggest that option 2 is the most likely. Option 2 strengthens Madrid’s defense and gives them more solidity and height, which could be vital to weather an aggressive City side in their home stadium. It also makes some changes in Madrid’s system and chemistry while keeping the core of the team intact. Option 2 could give Madrid the edge over City and help them achieve their goal of winning the Champions League for the 15th time.
Madridistas, which would you rather see tomorrow?— Managing Madrid (@managingmadrid) May 16, 2023
1. Rudiger, Militao, Alaba + Camavinga at DM and Fede on the right
2. Same lineup as the first leg