Julen Lopetegui will be without three first-team players when Real Madrid travel to the Mendizorrotza to take on Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.
Real Madrid have endured an uncharacteristic week, having gone three games without a win or scoring a goal. Julen Lopetegui & co. will now be eager to return to winning ways when they face off against Deportivo Alaves at the Mendizorrotza on Saturday evening.
A big contributing factor to the mini-winless run has been the absence of key first-team players. And, Lopetegui will be without both his first-choice full-backs on Saturday, with Dani Carvajal and Marcelo recovering from their respective calf injuries. And the Real Madrid boss discussed his injury problems during his pre-match press conference.
“We’ve still got a few with injuries, particularly Marcelo and now Dani, who could be out for a few weeks. We’ve got Isco with appendicitis and a few other knocks, Bale, for example, but it’s nothing serious. We have to manage the situation and get through it. The more players we have available the better when it comes to making decisions.”
The big concern for Lopetegui is invariably the full-back situation. While Alvaro Odriozola is a natural replacement for Carvajal on the right side of the Real Madrid defence, the left-back slot is a bit of a problem.
Sergio Reguilon is part of the first-team squad after being promoted from Real Madrid Castilla. But, after a lacklustre debut against CSKA Moscow, Nacho could end up getting the nod at left-back, with Lopetegui likely to opt for experience against Alaves.
At the heart of the Real Madrid defence, Lopetegui should reinstate Sergio Ramos to the starting lineup after the surprising decision to rest him against CSKA Moscow, with Raphael Varane likely to give him company.
Behind them, another big decision beckons Lopetegui, who will have to choose between Keylor Navas and Thibaut Courtois. Recent games suggest that a pattern is emerging, with Courtois starting in La Liga and the same trend should continue against Alaves.
Up ahead in midfield, Isco’s absence due to appendicitis means Lopetegui has to choose between Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Casemiro and Dani Ceballos. On Saturday, Casemiro might be the one to drop to the bench, with Modric, Kroos and Ceballos starting in the three-man midfield.
Meanwhile, there is some good news being greeted by Lopetegui, with Gareth Bale fit and available after scans revealed the Welshman to be completely injury free. The Real Madrid manager iterated the same, confirming that Bale should return to the starting lineup straightaway.
“He’s a key player. He’s fine and he trained well. He felt some discomfort but picked it up in time before it became anything serious and he’s ready to play.”
The front three picks itself for now, with Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema joining Bale, although Benzema will hope to regain his form, with Mariano Diaz snapping at his heels.