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SOCCER

What starting XI will Real Madrid field against Liverpool in the Champions League final?

Carlo Ancelotti fielded his classic 4-3-3 line-up against Betis in the final league game of the season, a dress rehearsal for the final against Liverpool.

Update:
Real Madrid's Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti (C), Real Madrid's Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior (L) and teammates acknowledge the crowd at the end of the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 20, 2022. (Photo by Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP)
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOUAFP

Since Real Madrid secured the league title on 30 April, Carlo Ancelotti’s only real concern has been making sure his players remained injury-free, relaxed and motivated during the four weeks between then and their next challenge - the Champions League final against Liverpool on 28 May. In the meantime, Madrid had five games to get through - with the title in the bag, the remaining four LaLiga games were a formality, and a chance for the coach a well-earned rest to some of his regular campaigners.

Madrid saw out the domestic season with LaLiga games against Atlético, Levante, Cádiz and Betis. Ancelotti fielded slightly different line-ups in all of those games, using variations of the same 19 players. The only first team regular who didn’t feature in those games was centre-back David Alaba, who is out with an adductor problem but is expected to return to training on Monday morning - five days before the final. If it is decided that Alaba isn’t ready, Nacho will likely partner Militão in central defence although Ancelotti has regularly shuffled his back four, some of who are versatile enough to cover in other positions.

As expected, Ancelotti has given little away when pressed on which starting XI he will put out against Liverpool but the side that took to the pitch against Betis was a strong indication of which 11 players will be lining up against Klopp’s Reds in Paris. This season, Ancelotti hasn’t veered away from his usual 4-3-3 set-up with his stellar XI comprising: Courtois; Carvajal, Militão, Alaba, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric, Rodrygo, Benzema and Vinicius. Nacho was drafted in for the absent Alaba against Betis on Friday, but otherwise, that was the team who took to the pitch in Madrid’s last competitive game, their final dress rehearsal before the Champions League final.

Gareth Bale (back spasms), Eden Hazard (fibula) have not played in weeks so won’t be match-fit for Paris. Dani Ceballos and Isco have played a handful of games coming off the bench late on and legendary left-back Marcelo came on for the final 20 minutes against Betis in what will probably be his last appearance for the club - as did Isco and Ceballos, all three given the chance to say goodbye to the fans before they move on later this summer.

Having studied Liverpool and watched their recent games, including the FA Cup final against Chelsea, Ancelotti knows that the final could be a gruelling physical test for his players in which stamina and who he brings off the bench will be key. “My only doubt is who will be more important - the players who start the game or those who finish it,” was all he would say when quizzed about his plans for Paris.

Benzema hands Marcelo the captain's armband against Betis in the final LaLiga game of the season. (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
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Benzema hands Marcelo the captain's armband against Betis in the final LaLiga game of the season. (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)Soccrates ImagesGetty

Atlético 1-0 Real Madrid (8.5.22)

Lunin; Lucas Vázquez, Militão, Vallejo, Nacho; Kroos, Casemiro, Camavinga; Asensio, Jovic, Rodrygo.

Real Madrid 6-0 Levante (12.5.22)

Courtois; Lucas Vázquez, Vallejo, Nacho, Mendy; Valverde, Camavinga, Modric; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius.

Cádiz 6-0 Real Madrid (15.5.22)

Lunin; Vallejo, Militão, Nacho, Lucas Vázquez; Valverde, Casemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Mariano, Rodrygo.

Real Madrid 0-0 Betis (20.5.22)

Courtois; Carvajal, Militão, Nacho, Mendy; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Rodrygo, Benzema and Vinicius

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