Real Madrid vs. Cordoba: How Los Blancos Will Line Up in La Liga Game

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2014

CARDIFF, WALES - AUGUST 12:  Real Madrid pose for a group photograph during the UEFA Super Cup match between  Real Madrid and Sevilla at Cardiff City Stadium on August 12, 2014 Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Real Madrid begin their 2014-15 La Liga campaign with a clash against top-flight newcomers Cordoba at the Bernabeu on Monday night.

Carlo Ancelotti's side will want to rebound quickly after suffering a 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Friday. 

After finishing deadlocked at 1-1 with Diego Simeone's men in the first leg on Tuesday, the defending European champions were unable to break down the robust system of Atleti, watching one of six targeted titles slip through their grasp. 

Monday's clash with Cordoba, however, won't be anywhere near as stern a test. 

Perhaps the most interesting storyline heading into Los Blancos' league opener is what system Ancelotti will deploy.

Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

Having swept aside Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup with a fluid 4-4-2, the Italian switched back to the more familiar 4-3-3 for both games against Atletico, struggling to penetrate Los Rojiblancos' two banks of four in the absence of Angel Di Maria. 

Complicating the issue is Cristiano Ronaldo's questionable fitness. After being substituted at half-time in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup, the Portuguese played only 45 minutes again on Friday, coming on for Toni Kroos after the break. 

The need to rest Ronaldo in what is a small turnaround between games will need to be weighed against doing the same for James Rodriguez, who still looks rusty after an arduous World Cup campaign. 

The solution to that issue for Ancelotti may well be reverting to the 4-4-2 showcased against Sevilla, using either the Ballon d'Or winner or the Colombian alongside Karim Benzema up front, reducing the physical workload for one of the pair by taking them away from the wing. 

Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press

Indeed, Bleacher Report lead tactics writer Sam Tighe outlined the benefits of switching to the 4-4-2, particularly with Di Maria seemingly on his way to Manchester United, as reported by The Guardian

In such a situation, Ronaldo would likely take his place next to Benzema, with Rodriguez and Gareth Bale lining up on the respective flanks, both capable of cutting inside to operate between the lines—something that was lacking in both encounters with Atletico.  

Centrally, Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric look best placed to form the midfield partnership in that system, particularly after Kroos was substituted at half-time of Friday's outing.

Following a successful World Cup run with Germany and having played a part in all of Los Blancos' recent games, the former Bayern Munich star could use a night off, especially when one considers the relative weakness of Real's impending opponents. 

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 19:  Gareth Bale (L) Pepe and Sergio Ramos argue with referee Estrada Fernandez during the Supercopa first leg match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on August 19, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

At the back, selection becomes a little more straightforward for Ancelotti.

Alongside Sergio Ramos, Pepe is likely to start in the centre of the defence after being rested for the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup.

At right-back, Daniel Carvajal is now the manager's first-choice option following his impressive debut season in the Madrid first team in 2013-14.

In the other full-back position, Marcelo appears set to take his place, given that Ancelotti tends to favour the Brazilian over Fabio Coentrao against weaker opponents unable to punish his sometimes lackadaisical defending.  

All of which leaves only the goalkeeping position.

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 19:  Keylor Navas of Real Madrid looks on during the Supercopa first leg match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid     at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on August 19, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Last season, Ancelotti used Iker Casillas in the team's cup campaigns, while Diego Lopez stood in goal during Real's league matches.

A similar situation seems likely this term.

After Casillas' disastrous form at this summer's World Cup, it's difficult to envisage Ancelotti possessing ultimate confidence in the Spaniard. Additionally, the purchase of Keylor Navas from Levante places a pressure on the manager to utilise his new keeper.

With Casillas starting all of Los Blancos' recent encounters with Sevilla and Atletico, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Costa Rican take his place in the side on Monday.  

Bleacher Report

Ancelotti, of course, will be hoping his team can begin their La Liga season in style against a team making their first top-flight appearance in 42 years.