Santiago Solari will be without the services of captain and defensive mainstay Sergio Ramos, when Real Madrid take on Ajax in the Champions League.
Real Madrid will be aiming to make it through to the Last Eight stage of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League, when they clash against Dutch giants AFC Ajax in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.
Santiago Solari’s men come into the game with a distinct advantage, having beaten Erik ten Hag’s men 2-1 in the first leg, which puts them in the driver’s seat in the tie. And the fact that they have no injured players, apart from Marcos Llorente, will come as a boost for the Merengues ahead of the big game.
However, the current holders of the trophy will have to go into the game without the presence of club captain Sergio Ramos. The Spaniard has been hit with a two-match ban after deliberately picking up a yellow card in the first leg last month, meaning he will also miss the first leg of the quarter-final, should Real Madrid qualify.
Speaking on his captain’s absence, Solari said in his pre-match press conference, “I’m sorry he is not in the game. He’s a very important player for us. He’s a leader. We have players with ample experience and quality to stand in. The character of Ramos is infused in the team.”
The vacancy created in the backline due to Ramos’ absence is likely to filled by utility man Nacho Fernandez. Apart from that alteration, no changes are expected in defence, with Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane and Sergio Reguilon all holding on to their spots in the starting XI in front of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Llorente’s absence is a bit of a concern for Real Madrid with Casemiro struggling to impose himself in recent matches. However, the Brazilian is expected to be stuck with in the holding midfield role on Tuesday night. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos should continue to operate on either side of him once again, despite underwhelming in the last couple of matches.
Vinicius Junior has easily been Real Madrid’s biggest threat in attack in recent months. The Brazilian attacker should certainly be one of the first names on Solari’s team sheet, starting out on the left flank. “It seems to me that he is so young and a newcomer that he gives the fans so many reasons to be happy, which is good news.” the manager said, about the teenage sensation.
On the opposite flank, a change is on the cards, after another anonymous display from Gareth Bale against Barcelona at the weekend that saw him get booed off the pitch. Lucas Vazquez is likely to be the man replacing the Welshman, ahead of compatriot Marco Asensio.
There is no looking past Karim Benzema as the lone striker for Real Madrid, although the Frenchman seems to have gone off the boil recently and needs to find his goalscoring touch soon.