Carlo Ancelotti faces his first test since Sami Khedira was ruled out for six months with a serious knee injury when Real Madrid take on Almeria on Saturday. Khedira’s absence comes as a real blow for Madrid after they had begun to find their top form for the first time since Ancelotti took charge. With Brazilian Casemiro, who has not made an appearance since the beginning of September, the only other similarly tenacious midfielder at his disposal, Ancelotti admits he has a dilemma on his hands.
“During the past couple of days, we’ve tried to play using the same system or with two holding midfielders but I will make my final decision tomorrow,” he said, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “We could field Casemiro or use [Asier] Illarra[mendi]-Xabi or Casemiro-Xabi as the two defensive midfielders behind Isco. I will decide on the day of the game.”
Khedira is the most serious injury to emerge from the international break, but he is far from the only one. Ancelotti also revealed that Angel di Maria, Marcelo, Raphael Varane and Fabio Coentrao will miss the trip to the Estadio Mediterraneo.
One player who will be available is Cristiano Ronaldo. The forward gained headlines across the globe for his hat-trick against Sweden in midweek that secured Portugal a place in the 2014 World Cup. With Messi suffering with injury problems for much of the year, there is a growing feeling that Ronaldo will end the Barcelona man’s four-year domination of the Ballon d’Or. Ancelotti, unsurprisingly, concurs with that line of thinking.
"I love watching him play because he is on excellent form,” he said, according to Spanish publication Marca. “He plays in an extraordinary way. I hope he wins it because he deserves it."
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“A lot of courage is needed to not give the Ballon d'Or to Ronaldo,” he added. “I saw the game against Sweden and asked myself if it was really true that this player played for Real Madrid.”
After failing to win a single one of their first 10 matches in La Liga, Almeria have scored victories in their last three outings to climb outside of the drop zone. And they are set to be boosted for the visit of Madrid by the return from injury of Suso. The midfielder has impressed at the start of his loan spell from Liverpool, already contributing five assists.
Where to watch: The Spanish Primera Division clash will kick off at 2 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport, with a live stream available on beIN Sport Play.