Real Madrid kick off their new season with a visit to Alaves on Saturday evening with several players out injured and others pondering their future at the club.
It has been a quiet pre-season by Real Madrid’s standards and although the club still harbours dreams of signing Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint Germain, the only arrival so far this summer is defender David Alaba, who helps cover for the departure of central defenders Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.
Alaba will go straight into Carlo Ancelotti’s side as the Italian begins his second spell in Madrid, with Eder Militao his likely partner.
Questions over the fitness of Ferland Mendy and Dani Carvajal will probably see Marcelo and Lucas Vazquez begin as full backs, while in midfield Casemiro and Luka Modric will probably be partnered by Fede Valverde or Isco, with Toni Kroos out for an indeterminate period with a groin injury, Xinhua reports.
Young midfielder Martin Odegaard has been left without a squad number, which rules him out and the young Norwegian will now look to leave the club this summer and while Dani Ceballos is also without a number, that is at least partly due to the fact he will be out of action for three months with an ankle injury he picked up at the Olympics.
Karim Benzema is likely to lead the attack, despite lacking match fitness after a bout of Covid-19 saw him miss the start of pre-season training and the interest will revolve around whether Ancelotti will give a start to Gareth Bale, who is back in the fold after his loan to Tottenham, or if he puts his faith in the Brazilian duo of Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo.
Bale is “a great player, everyone knows that, although he hasn’t done so well recently: if he does well, then he’ll play, if not then someone else will and there is a lot of competition here. That is good because competition is motivation,” commented Ancelotti in his pre-game press conference.
Eden Hazard has trained with the squad this week, but the Belgian’s fitness history implies he will have to settle for a place on the bench.
Alaves will be looking for a positive start to their campaign after their struggles of last season before the arrival of Javier Calleja as coach saw them escape relegation. They will base their survival of the connection between strikers Joselu and Lucas Perez, while young winger Facundo Pallistri will add further guile and pace up front.