La Liga leaders Real Madrid host an Athletic Club side in the midst of a decidedly contrasting run of form on Wednesday evening.
Madrid’s visitors are winless in their last five fixtures (though they did draw four of those games). Los Blancos, conversely, are on a nine-game unbeaten streak across all competitions, winning their last six matches on the spin.
Here’s the lineup Carlo Ancelotti may deploy to extend Madrid’s lossless stretch to double digits.
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – Madrid’s number one repeatedly displays the fast reflexes and diving skills he honed while playing his family’s sport of choice – volleyball (both his parents were semi-professional and his sister represented the Belgian national team).
Dani Carvajal (RB) – The club collectively may be in the midst of a mini unbeaten run but Carvajal hasn’t tasted defeat decked in all white since August 2020.
Eder Militao (CB) – Having missed his first game for Madrid since March upon return from national team duty in November, the Brazil international isn’t set for another absence any time soon.
David Alaba (CB) – Only Karim Benzema has registered more assists than the latest Madrid number four to take an attacking interpretation of the centre back role.
Ferland Mendy (LB) – Despite some horrific accusations swirling around the France international, Madrid’s 26-year-old continues to be selected.
Eduardo Camavinga (CM) – From the oldest player in Madrid’s squad to the youngest, the French teenager may step in for 36-year-old Luka Modric with an intense fixture schedule on the horizon.
Casemiro (CM) – Even at his groggiest lull as endless minutes stacked up for both club and country earlier this season, Ancelotti insisted his Brazilian pivot was not tired. Now Casemiro is returning to his previous lofty standards, Madrid can scarcely go a game without their one-man midfield shield.
Federico Valverde (CM) – After a cameo appearance in the weekend win against Sevilla earned his first minutes since October, Valverde may return to the starting XI to give Toni Kroos a rest with games against Real Sociedad, Inter and Atletico Madrid rapidly approaching.
Marco Asensio (RW) – After a spotty opening to the campaign as Ancelotti tried to mould him into a central midfielder, Asensio has made a firm claim for the one open slot in an increasingly fixed XI, starting the last five league games at right wing.
Karim Benzema (ST) – Despite the endless campaigns launched by Madrid’s media on the Frenchman’s behalf, the most important player for Los Blancos finished a respectable, but disappointing, fourth in this year’s Ballon d’Or.
Vinicius Junior (LW) – Imbued with an added layer of confidence, the once erratic trickster has more La Liga goals this season (nine) than the tally he amassed over his first 82 appearances in the competition (eight).