Real Madrid: How Will They Line Up in Champions League Final Against Atletico?

Samuel Marsden@@samuelmarsdenFeatured ColumnistMay 23, 2014

A Real Madrid supporter poses for a photograph in front of a billboard showing Real Madrid star players, at Comercio square, in Lisbon, Thursday, May 22, 2014. Spanish soccer teams Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will play the Champions League final match on May 24 in Lisbon. ( AP Photo/Joao Henriques)
Joao Henriques/Associated Press

It may have been 40 years since Atletico Madrid last showed their face in a Champions League final—when it was still known as the European Cup—but the 12 years Real Madrid have been forced to wait since their last appearance at this stage feels like a lifetime given their cravings to lift the trophy for the 10th time.

At last, on Saturday evening in Lisbon, Los Blancos now have the chance to win La Decima, and it will be all the more sweeter if they can do it against their city rivals.

According to Spanish publication AS, "15,000 cars and 600 buses (around 90,000 people)" split between the two clubs will make the trip from Madrid to Portugal  

Before Carlo Ancelotti even assesses the fitness of his patched-up squad, he already knows he will be without Xabi Alonso.

The Spanish international midfielder was booked in the semifinal second leg against Bayern Munich and will miss the match suspended. Marca point out that he joins a long list of players to have been banned for a Champions League final, which includes Franco Baresi, Claudio Caniggia, Michael Ballack, Pavel Nedved and Dani Alves.

Paul White/Associated Press

Moving to the treatment table, it looks like Pepe won't recover from a calf muscle injury in time, paving the way for Raphael Varane to partner Sergio Ramos in the middle of the Madrid back four, per Marca.

Dani Carvajal is a given to start at right-back, ahead of Alvaro Arbeloa, but there is a tougher decision to be made on the left side where Ancelotti will have to choose between Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao.

Behind the back four will be Iker Casillas.

Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

The club's long-serving goalkeeper has played in every European match this season and also featured in two of the last three league games with this final in mind.

With Alonso absent in midfield, one of the big questions for Madrid's Italian coach is who will replace him?

Sami Khedira has recently returned from injury, but Ancelotti has hinted that Asier Illarramendi, a player who was likened to Alonso in his younger days at Real Sociedad, will start, per Marca:

Illarra is our first option because he's used to playing in that position and that's what we signed him for, to deputise for Xabi Alonso. He is used to playing there and has the talent to do so. I haven't changed my mind in that respect.

He's skilled enough to play every game, the big ones and the smaller ones. This is his first season at Real and it isn't easy. He had problems to start with and didn't play, but we're pleased with his performances since then. He'll play better next year. He has the ability to play in a final.

Luka Modric will certainly be involved, while Isco could also be handed a midfield role due to the fitness doubts which persist over Karim Benzema.

The French forward is set to train with the team on Friday evening and, given the value Ancelotti places on his role in the side, a decision will be taken as late as possible on whether he will play or not.

Paul White/Associated Press

If he doesn't make it from the start, Angel Di Maria could be pushed into a more advanced position.

Gareth Bale is set to start on the right side of the front three, while Cristiano Ronaldo also looks good to go on the left, according to AS: "Ronaldo took a step towards starting the Champions League final, taking part in Real Madrid's final training session in the Spanish capital before leaving for Lisbon."

Despite that good news, it will be interesting to see how the Portuguese reacts to his first sprint in the match, as noted by Dermot Corrigan on Twitter.

The Ballon d'Or winner didn't feel comfortable in the warm-up for Madrid's final match of the season against Espanyol and chose to save himself for the Champions League final—will he be at his best?


Predicted Real Madrid XI: Iker Casillas; Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Fabio Coentrao; Asier Illarramendi, Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria; Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo