Real Madrid travel to Espanyol’s RCDE Stadium for a La Liga meeting with the second side of Catalonia on Sunday night.
Carlo Ancelotti completed the set of top-flight titles across Europe’s five biggest leagues with Real Madrid’s domestic triumph last season. However, the veteran Italian has never won the same trophy in consecutive years across his entire managerial career.
Here’s the XI Ancelotti may deploy in a bid to retain Madrid’s La Liga crown.
GK: Thibaut Courtois – A 16-year-old Courtois prepared for his professional debut for Genk by bouncing on his neighbour’s trampoline the evening before.
RB: Lucas Vazquez – The reconfigured winger brings some invention to the right-back role but has shown little imagination by naming his first son Lucas and his first daughter after her mother, Macarena.
CB: Eder Militao – A lack of food, the baking Madrid heat and a bout of nerves left Militao feeling so faint he had to cut his introductory press conference short when he first joined Real three years ago.
CB: Antonio Rudiger – The German’s surge from centre-back helped Karim Benzema win a second penalty against Celta Vigo last weekend. Rudiger himself won a career-high three spot kicks for Chelsea last season.
LB: David Alaba – In the spirit of Ancelotti’s insistence on rotation, Alaba could give Ferland Mendy a rest after starting all three matches this season.
CM: Luka Modric – Treated to the ultimate reward a performance can warrant as Celta’s home support applauded Modric off the pitch last weekend.
CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – Casemiro’s 22-year-old replacement started the move for two of Madrid’s goals with a crunching tackle in their first game after selling the Brazilian.
CM: Eduardo Camavinga – The first player born in the year 2002 to start a match in Europe’s top five leagues could earn a second consecutive appearance from the off for Los Blancos this weekend.
RW: Federico Valverde – The energetic 24-year-old scored his first La Liga goal since Halloween 2020 against Celta last weekend.
ST: Karim Benzema – The Frenchman has scored five goals in his previous five appearances against Espanyol.
LW: Vinicius Junior – After rounding Celta’s Agustin Marchesin to open his La Liga scoring account for the season, Vinicius took to Twitter to reveal the goal’s inspiration: “Reference R9 Ronaldo. Thanks for the advice! Idol!” If only more footballers would cite their sources.