IT is quite remarkable that the pre-season tour has so effectively changed certain players’ fortunes as has been the case at Real Madrid.
Especially so when we are talking about players who seemed destined to play a supporting role given the arrival of new signings, but who have taken their chance to shine and made the most of it.
So far only Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema have a place booked in the starting eleven. The rest will have to wait and see what cards lady luck deals them.
A mammoth decision in goal. Diego López has shown his huge talent in the pre-season warm-up and Ancelotti, who is obviously well aware of what Iker Casillas can do from his international record, knows full well he has two outstanding keepers to choose from.
Whoever plays in goal against Real Betis on Sunday will more than likely become the first-choice keeper, and it seems Casillas has the slight advantage.
It’s a case of even stevens. Daniel Carvajal has taken his chances and has played more because he’s been there from the outset. In doing so he’s shown he’s more than ready to be the one –– his attacking prowess is what Ancelotti values most. By contrast, Álvaro Arbeloa is a sound defender and this may prove decisive against more evenly matched opposition.
There is nothing to fight about right this minute, but this will surely change when the Frenchman recovers from his injury. Raphaël Varane is currently training with the French national squad but having put in some convincing performances towards the end of last season and given the presence of Zinedine Zidane, his biggest supporter, in the coaching staff, he will get his chance. Pepe holds the key as to whether this happens sooner rather than later.
Either Xabi Alonso or Asier Illarramendi looked set to be tasked with the role of bringing the ball out of defence through the Real Madrid midfield.
However, the pair’s injuries and the impressive displays by Carlos Casemiro and Luka Modric in the centre have given Ancelotti food for thought.
Casemiro has been the great revelation of Real’s pre-season campaign and has gone from a stand-in player to a man worthy of a starting place.
Considering the fact that Sami Khedira played for Germany on Wednesday and Casemiro will have had a good rest, it would not be surprising if the Brazilian was picked to start against Betis.
He can play as a holding midfielder in front of the back four, he can partner another anchorman in the middle of the park and he can also play on the right side of Ancelotti’s sometimes-used midfield triangle.
Modric and Mesuit Özil have been regular starters and it would also appear logical to start with the pair in the first league game. Modric has adapted well to the role of distributing play and is now the man who organises the team. Özil has been playing in the inside-right position with the aim of getting forward and the obligation of covering his wing in defence when the opposition has possession.
It is believed that Isco has cemented his place in the team after his impressive pre-season. He should play in the inside-left position, with the same defensive duties as Özil. Ángel Di María will have to wait for his chance and not be so hasty in his play, as he has shown at certain moments.
The Argentine has the most to lose from Gareth Bale’s expected arrival.