Real Madrid: Four conclusions from Ancelotti's team selection against Inter
The Real Madrid boss had some important decisions to make as Los Blancos faced Inter Milan in their biggest test of the season so far.
- Being a big name guarantees you nothing
Carlo Ancelotti raised eyebrows with his decision to leave Eden Hazard on the bench against Inter Milan on Wednesday night, and caused even greater surprise when he did not turn to the Belgian with the scores still level going into the final stages. Ancelotti opted instead to bring on Rodrygo Goes, and the Brazilian justified the decision.
“It’s not just what he did in attack,” the Madrid head coach said post-match. “It’s also what he gave us in defence. On top of that, we needed to open up the field and Hazard tends to play more centrally.”
- Ancelotti ready to place his faith in youth
With five games now played this season, Vinícus Júnior has established himself as a starter ahead of Hazard. A past master in managing elite dressing rooms, Ancelotti gave the nod to the latter - the more senior and established player of the two - at the beginning of the campaign, but the former Chelsea man simply hasn’t done enough to keep hold of his starting spot beyond the third game of the season (and he only started one of those, the win over Celta Vigo, because of Gareth Bale’s injury).
Another example of Ancelotti’s willingness to embrace youth is Federico Valverde. Isco is very clearly behind the Uruguayan in the pecking order.
Meanwhile, Ancelotti was also smart to take Miguel Gutiérrez out of the firing line, after the left-back started against Celta and had to recover from a serious early error. Gutiérrez will get plenty more chances this season.
- Madrid boss sees Alaba as a central defender
Ancelotti made clear his preference over the versatile David Alaba’s position with his team selection, playing the Austrian in central defence and going for Nacho Fernández at left-back. Speaking after Madrid’s 1-0 win at the San Siro, he then backed up his stance with words: “For me, Alaba is a centre-back. Unless there is an emergency, he’ll play in the middle.” This indicates that Alaba and Éder Militao are the first-choice central defensive pairing.
Ancelotti already knows Alaba well from the pair’s time together at Bayern Munich, where the defender was the second-most used player under the Italian, behind only Robert Lewandowski. Speaking to Madrid’s in-house media team recently, Ancelotti heaped praise on Alaba, saying: “He’s a complete player, he has a lot of quality. And he’s very intelligent when it comes to defensive tactics.” Curiously, however, Ancelotti fielded the 29-year-old played more frequently as a full-back in Germany.
- Ancelotti at pains not to overexert Modric
Luka Modric is now 36 and could well be in his final season at Real Madrid. His value to the team is incalculable, but Ancelotti knows Madrid will only reap the benefits of the Croat’s abilities if Los Blancos avoid overplaying him. That’s why players such as Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga - who replaced Modric in the second half - must also step up.
Ancelotti has also had no hesitation in giving Toni Kroos plenty of time to properly get over his groin injury. The German’s is a case similar to Modric’s, albeit he is younger. Madrid have been overreliant on both midfielders in recent seasons.