Real Madrid face Braga in the Champions League on Tuesday night, but El Clasico is firmly in the glare of the headlights. Barcelona are missing a number of players for the clash, but with several injuries of their own, Carlo Ancelotti also has several doubts about his best XI too.
The principal decision is perhaps in the midfield. Aurelien Tchouameni, Fede Valverde and Jude Bellingham seem to be three of the four points in Ancelotti’s rhombus, but Marca claim there is debate over the fourth member for Saturday.
Luka Modric looks as if he will be relegated to the bench, while dnai Ceballos is injured, leaving Ancelotti with a straight choice between Eduardo Camavinga and Toni Kroos.
The German veteran provides control, composure and experience in the middle. At his best, no doubt Kroos walks into any side in the world still, capable of holding the ball and manipulating the opposition, but struggling perhaps to defend and press as well as his rival.
Camavinga has the energy, dribbling and tackling ability to cause real problems for the opposition, both with and without the ball, especially if the game is more broken.
One option for Ancelotti may be to drop Camavinga to the left side of defence, which would solve that issue. Camavinga is tough to get past, and Lamine Yamal on the right may be one of the few players for Barcelona that can beat their marker, although he is also liable to be caught out at times positionally.
Camavinga is harder to drop for Ancelotti than Ferland Mendy or Fran Garcia. If Ancelotti wants to play with handbreak on then Mendy provides a strong defensive full-back, liable to do his job without making much impact on the ball. Garcia is almost the opposite of that. As with putting Camavinga in midfield, using Garcia would be a sign that Ancelotti foresees or wants a stretched game, with the former Rayo Vallecano left-back capable of covering great distances and getting to the by-line.
The final position in question is up front. Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius were earmarked as the pair to play ahead of Bellingham before the season started, but after just one goal so far this season, the numbers lie firmly in Joselu Mato’s favour (five goals).
Rodrygo has not been playing badly, and remains dangerous, but has so far lacked a decisive edge, often coming in and out of the game. Meanwhile Joselu is more limited technically, but takes defenders away from Bellingham in the box, while being an aerial threat himself. If asked to hold up the ball, he is capable of that too, but linking with Bellingham and Vinicius is trickier for the veteran.
Rodrygo and Camavinga like have an edge to occupy two of these three positions, with plenty of cachet in their favour – dropping them may not go down well with the higher-ups. Whichever way Ancelotti decides in each position, it will hint at exactly what type of game the Italian is seeking or expecting.