El Clásico: What Will Be Real Madrid's Starting XI for the Spanish Supercopa?

Jared DublinAnalyst IIAugust 11, 2011

El Clásico: What Will Be Real Madrid's Starting XI for the Spanish Supercopa?

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    This Sunday, Real Madrid and Barcelona will clash in the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa.

    All eyes will be on Madrid manager José Mourinho and his team selection.

    The Portuguese tactician exclusively used the 4-2-3-1 in preseason games, which was the team's standard formation last year. However, Madrid enjoyed great success with the 4-3-3 during the 18 days of El Clásico, most notably in the Copa del Rey final.

    With the number of returning first-team players and new signings, Mourinho will play with a full-strength squad on Sunday.

    What will be Real Madrid's Starting XI for the Spanish Supercopa?

    Here are five possibilities for Los Merengues.

4-2-3-1 with Fábio Coentrão in a Defensive Midfield Role

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    Formation: 4-2-3-1

    GK: Iker Casillas (Captain)

    RB: Álvaro Arbeloa

    CB: Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho

    LB: Marcelo

    RDM: Xabi Alonso

    LDM: Fábio Coentrão

    CAM: Mesut Özil

    RW: Ángel di María

    LW: Cristiano Ronaldo

    ST: Karim Benzema 

     

    Throughout the preseason, Madrid played in the same 4-2-3-1 formation they used last year.

    Mourinho experimented with different players in new roles, but the basic system was unchanged in the seven matches this summer. Madrid were impressive in the preseason, showing great defensive discipline and attacking movement.

    If Mourinho uses this starting XI, Madrid would be playing with nine out of the 11 first-team regulars from last season. The two exclusions would be Sergio Ramos, who is struggling with a back injury, and Sami Khedira.

    The German's replacement in midfield would be former Benfica star Fábio Coentrão. Although he was the first-choice left-back for club and country, the Portuguese international has emerged as a dynamic, box-to-box defensive midfielder.

    Coentrão played out on the wing as well, but he primarily featured in midfield during Madrid's summer tour. With his defensive tenacity and quickness, the Portuguese star can break up opposition play and dispossess opponents in midfield. He boasts an outstanding work-rate, but Coentrão also has the skill to side-step challenges and burst forward in support of the attack.

    Although Khedira performed well against Barcelona last season, Coentrão brings a different dimension to midfield. As the left-sided defensive midfielder, he would provide excellent cover for Marcelo at left-back.

    The Portuguese star will be able to help the Brazilian contain Dani Alves, Pedro and Lionel Messi. Coentrão's versatility also gives Marcelo the freedom to get forward, as the midfielder can temporarily move into the left-back position.

    Mourinho may be reluctant to drop Khedira, but this starting XI could have the defensive qualities and attacking talent to defeat Barcelona in the Supercopa.

4-3-3 with Pepe in a Defensive Midfield Role

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    Formation: 4-3-3

    GK: Iker Casillas (Captain)

    RB: Álvaro Arbeloa

    CB: Raúl Albiol, Ricardo Carvalho

    LB: Marcelo

    RDM: Sami Khedira

    CDM: Pepe

    LDM: Xabi Alonso

    RW: Mesut Özil

    LW: Cristiano Ronaldo

    ST: Karim Benzema

     

    Mourinho primarily used the 4-3-3 formation in the 18 days of El Clásico last season.

    Although Madrid predominantly played in a 4-2-3-1 system, the Portuguese tactician switched to a three-man midfield in order to disrupt Barcelona's possession and passing style of play.

    In this formation, Pepe moves out of the back and into midfield. The Portuguese defender would be responsible for breaking up opposition play, and providing pressure high up the pitch.

    With his impressive work-rate and defensive tenacity, Barcelona's three maestros will have less time and space on the ball. Pepe would track and man-mark Lionel Messi, looking to contain the Argentine star and minimize his influence.

    The Madrid enforcer was able to subdue Messi in the Copa del Rey Final, dispossessing the Barcelona No. 10 and making vital interceptions in midfield. If Mourinho employs Pepe in the same defensive midfield role, the Portuguese star could have a similar impact if he avoids getting sent off.

    Although Madrid have exclusively used the 4-2-3-1 in preseason, this formation would counteract Barcelona's control of midfield. Pepe would have the tactical freedom to close down opponents, and mark Messi as he drops deep to receive the ball and drifts into pockets of space.

    Pepe's switch from centre-back to defensive midfielder was key to Madrid's success last season. However, it is improbable that Mourinho will pick this starting XI for Sunday.

    Without Sergio Ramos to slot in at centre-back, Mourinho would be taking a risk with Raúl Albiol in central defense. The former Valencia player struggled against Barcelona last year, as he lacked the pace and agility to cope with the likes of David Villa, Pedro and Messi.

4-3-3 Without Mesut Özil

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    Formation: 4-3-3

    GK: Iker Casillas (Captain)

    RB: Álvaro Arbeloa

    CB: Raúl Albiol, Ricardo Carvalho

    LB: Marcelo

    RDM: Sami Khedira

    CDM: Pepe

    LDM: Xabi Alonso

    RW: Ángel di María

    LW: Cristiano Ronaldo

    ST: Karim Benzema 

     

    Although it seems unlikely, Mourinho could drop playmaker Mesut Özil for the Supercopa.

    The German international was one of Madrid's best players last season, keeping former Ballon d'Or winner Kaká on the bench. Özil was impressive in preseason as well, solidifying his place as the club's first-choice attacking midfielder.

    Özil had a sensational debut season, but he failed to make an impact in his first Clásico. He was largely ineffective, and was replaced at halftime by Lassana Diarra. After Barcelona thrashed Los Merengues 5-0 at the Camp Nou, Mourinho picked a more physical and athletic side for the match in Madrid.

    Mourinho switched from the standard 4-2-3-1 to a conservative 4-3-3 formation. He moved Pepe into a defensive midfield role and Özil to the bench.

    With the pace of Ángel di María and Cristiano Ronaldo out wide, Madrid were able to quickly transition from defense to attack. The Argentine international worked tirelessly down the flank, tracking back defensively and providing support for the fullbacks.

    Özil has exceptional attacking qualities, but his work-rate and tenacity could be a liability against Barcelona.

    Mourinho could use this starting XI on Sunday, but it is unlikely that the Portuguese tactician will sacrifice Madrid's chief playmaker and creative threat.

4-2-3-1 with Fábio Coentrão on the Wing

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    Formation: 4-2-3-1

    GK: Iker Casillas (Captain)

    RB: Álvaro Arbeloa

    CB: Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho

    LB: Marcelo

    RDM: Sami Khedira

    LDM: Xabi Alonso

    CAM: Mesut Özil

    RW: Cristiano Ronaldo

    LW: Fábio Coentrão

    ST: Karim Benzema

     

    Madrid excelled playing in Mourinho's 4-2-3-1 this summer. The Portuguese tactician did not experiment with other systems in the seven preseason matches, which makes it likely that he will be using this starting XI on Sunday.

    Although Fábio Coentrão was impressive as a defensive midfielder, he also played well out wide. The Portuguese star started Madrid's first preseason match as a left-winger.

    Coentrão began his career as a winger, transitioning to left-back in 2009. He contributes on both sides of the ball, tracking back defensively and getting forward as well.

    In this formation, Coentrão and Marcelo would form a dynamic duo on the left flank. The former Benfica star would provide cover and support for the Madrid left-back. When Barcelona are in possession, Dani Alves consistently pushes forward down the right. With Coentrão playing as a left-winger, he will be able to help Marcelo contain the Barcelona right-back.

    Although Coentrão would improve Madrid defensively, his skill-set and style of play give the team more fluidity in the attack. When Marcelo bursts forward from his left-back position, the Portuguese international can drop back and provide cover.

    With two interchangeable wing-backs on the left, Madrid will be less predictable going forward. Marcelo has the freedom to take risks in the final third, knowing that Coentrão will easily slot in at left-back.

    Pepe was sensational in his defensive midfield role last season, but Mourinho will probably want to keep the Portuguese enforcer and Ricardo Carvalho together in central defense. Pepe has performed well at the back this summer, and Madrid will need his recovery pace to cope with Barcelona's quick attackers.

    Ángel di María was a key figure for Los Merengues in his debut season. He was the first-choice right-winger, playing opposite of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Argentine performed well against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey Final, providing the key assist.

    Although the Argentine international is more dangerous in the attack, Coentrão could be one of Mourinho's starting wingers for the Supercopa. The Portuguese star has better defensive abilities and featured heavily in Madrid's preseason tour. Di María, on the other hand, joined the squad late due to his involvement at the 2011 Copa América.

    Mourinho has been consistent with his 4-2-3-1, making this a likely starting XI for the first leg of the Supercopa.

4-3-3 with the Creative Attacking Trio, and Fábio Coentrão in Midfield

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    Formation: 4-3-3

    GK: Iker Casillas (Captain)

    RB: Álvaro Arbeloa

    CB: Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho

    LB: Marcelo

    RDM: Sami Khedira

    CDM: Xabi Alonso

    LDM: Fábio Coentrão

    RW: Mesut Özil

    LW: Cristiano Ronaldo

    ST: Karim Benzema 

     

    Although Madrid played in a 4-2-3-1 formation this summer, Mourinho will most likely switch to the 4-3-3 for the Supercopa.

    The three-man midfield was a key element of the club's success in the Copa del Rey Final. Pepe, Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso were able to close down opponents quickly, and put pressure on Barcelona's three maestros.

    The Portuguese enforcer played a significant role in the dramatic win last season, but he will probably feature alongside Ricardo Carvalho on Sunday. Without Ramos available at the back, Mourinho will not want to start Raúl Albiol in central defense.

    Although Fábio Coentrão is a different type of player, he could be the third defensive midfielder in Madrid's 4-3-3 system. The Portuguese star would play on the left, with Alonso through the middle and Khedira on the right.

    With his all-action, box-to-box style of play, Coentrão would excel in Madrid's three-man midfield. He can provide support for Marcelo defensively, and burst forward to combine with Ronaldo down the flank.

    This starting XI offers the perfect balance of defensive structure and creativity. Mourinho's defensive midfielders will shield the back-four, allowing more freedom for the attackers.

    The chemistry amongst Mesut Özil, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema has improved exponentially with each preseason match. Madrid's attacking trio has developed a great understanding of each other's strengths, weaknesses, tendencies and style of play.

    The trio has been impressive in the final third, working intricate triangles with their quick, one and two-touch football.

    Özil may not be a true wide player, but he will naturally drift into a more central position. With Ronaldo and Benzema's combination play, and the German's world-class vision, Madrid's attacking trio will be a serious threat to Barcelona in the Supercopa.

    Although Mourinho has plenty of options in terms of team selection and formation, this could be the starting XI for Real Madrid this Sunday.