Santiago Solari has a full-strength squad at his disposal as Real Madrid open their FIFA Club World Cup campaign against Kashima Antlers in Abu Dhabi.
Real Madrid will begin their bid for a record fourth FIFA Club World Cup triumph when they take on Kashima Antlers at the Sheikh Zayed Sports City Stadium on Wednesday evening. And, Santiago Solari has his entire squad available to him in Abu Dhabi.
The Real Madrid manager did have a few injuries hampering his preparations for the tournament, with Nacho unlikely to play any part in either match that Los Blancos play, should they reach Friday’s final. The likes of Casemiro, Gareth Bale, Mariano Diaz, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio were also dealing with minor problems, but are set to be available.
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In goal, Solari has preferred to start Thibaut Courtois on most occasions, with Keylor Navas being restricted to appearances in Copa del Rey. On Wednesday, however, the Costa Rican international is likely to get the nod in what will be a rare start for him.
In defence though, Solari should give the nod to his strongest quartet, with Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo set to start. The likes of Alvaro Odriozola, Sergio Reguilon, Javi Sanchez and Jesus Vallejo are thus, the unlucky ones to miss out.
In midfield, Solari has all his personnel available to him, and during his pre-match press conference, he was quizzed upon one of the players who faces an uncertain future at Real Madrid, Isco.
“I love Isco. My job is to make sure that all of the players are performing to their very best and getting those that aren’t to produce their best and to keep those who already are performing to the same standard. One of my toughest jobs is to then pick my side.”
Isco though, is unlikely to start on Wednesday, having proven to be inconsistent in the rare chances that have been handed to him. Another factor in the Spaniard’s ouster is the recent upturn in Luka Modric’s form. The Croat should be the creator-in-chief for Real Madrid against Kashima Antlers, with Toni Kroos also bolstering the creativity.
The holding midfield role is a toss-up between Marcos Llorente and Casemiro, with the former likely to get the nod owing to Casemiro’s lack of match fitness. Up ahead in attack, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema seem to have shrugged off their injuries, and are set to start. Vinicius Junior is likely to take up the final spot in the side, in what will be another chance to impress for the Brazilian.