Cristiano Ronaldo, as was the case at Anoeta last weekend, will not be available when Real Madrid welcome Almeria to the Bernabeu in La Liga this Saturday.
The Portuguese ace has been struggling with a knee injury during the past few weeks, and manager Carlo Ancelotti decided it was best that he didn’t play his leading scorer in the 4-0 win over Real Sociedad.
However, Ronaldo did return to the Madrid squad for the midweek trip to Borussia Dortmund, although he didn’t play, and it is in Germany where Ancelotti has revealed that Madrid’s No. 7 realised something was still wrong, per Marca:
[Ronaldo] won’t be fit for tomorrow. He had a small injury, which we think he sustained in the first leg [against Dortmund], but in Dortmund he realised he wasn’t quite right. He didn’t aggravate the injury there, though. I don’t know if he will be fit for the cup final [against Barcelona on Wednesday], we will have to wait and see. He is not happy because it is an important moment of the season, but we are not going to take any risks.
It could once again mean Angel Di Maria is pushed forward from the middle of the park into Los Blancos’ front three.
The Argentine missed a penalty in the Champions League midweek; luckily, the consequences weren’t too severe, and he, once again, may line up on the right of the three, with Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale completing the trio.
Another option is Isco on the right, where he played in San Sebastian last Saturday, with Di Maria lining up in the middle of the park.
Luka Modric and Asier Illarramendi should complete the midfield three.
Ancelotti confirmed in his pre-match press conference, per @realmadriden, that the former Sociedad midfielder will start because Xabi Alonso is suspended, although it will act as a timely rest for the 32-year-old before the Copa del Rey final next week.
Sami Khedira, despite making good progress, is still not ready to make his long-awaited comeback for a few weeks.
In defence, Raphael Varane may come in, depending on how Madrid’s Italian coach assesses the weariness of his favoured pairing: Sergio Ramos and Pepe.
However, there are fewer options in the full-back department.
Alvaro Arbeloa and Marcelo remain sidelined, and Dani Carvajal will be suspended after he, like Alonso, picked up his fifth booking of the season in last weekend’s comfortable win against Sociedad.
Fortunately, Fabio Coentrao will be fit to continue at left-back, while the options for the right side are Ramos, Varane and Nacho Fernandez, who started on the left of Madrid’s back four last weekend.
In goal, there is no reason why the rotation system employed by Ancelotti between league and cup games won’t continue, with Diego Lopez returning in place of Iker Casillas.
Predicted Real Madrid XI: Diego Lopez; Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao; Asier Illarramendi, Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria; Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Isco