How to follow an 8-2 victory? That’s the challenge that awaits Real Madrid when they welcome Elche to the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday. The match comes just three days after Madrid scored a club record number of goals in an away league match, with Deportivo La Coruña being treated to a powerful example of what can happen when Ancelotti’s incredible collection of forward talent hits their stride.
It was a result that also followed hot on the heels of a 5-1 over Basel in the Champions League and continued to help relieve some of the gloom and scrutiny following a start to the league season that featured two defeats in three matches, including yet another loss to local rivals Atlético Madrid. Yet one debate appears set to be reignited by Ancelotti on Tuesday, with Spanish media reporting that Keylor Navas will make his first start for the club, replacing Iker Casillas. Madrid’s captain, who has been restored to the role of No. 1 at the start of this campaign following the sale of Diego Lopez, has been whistled by a section of his own fans in recent home matches for his perceived failings in goal. President Florentino Pérez defended the club stalwart over the weekend, and Ancelotti responded similarly.
“I think Iker is fine. It’s clear that, as the president said, unity is important,” he said, reports Spanish daily AS. “A club is the club itself, the players and the fans. Those are the three basic components and when they’re united it’s easier to achieve your goals. Last year at the end that was vital for us. All three parts together and that’s why we won.”
Still, Navas, who arrived from Levante over the summer, is now expected to get a chance to stake his claim, something he could well do if he replicates the form he displayed for Costa Rica in the World Cup. He may have to do so, though, playing behind a less than familiar center-back partnership. Pepe is again ruled out with a hamstring strain and Sergio Ramos is a doubt with a foot problem, which could mean that Raphael Varane is partnered in the starting lineup by Nacho.
One man who will definitely be in the team is Cristiano Ronaldo. Ancelotti insisted that the Portuguese, who scored a hat-trick at the weekend, did not need a rest, meaning he will be given a chance to add to his record of scoring in 12 straight league games at the Bernabeu. With Ancelotti set to make a few changes to his lineup, Ronaldo may be joined in attack by Javier “Chicharito" Hernandez for the first time, after the Mexican on loan from Manchester United scored two goals off the bench against Deportivo.
It is an ominous task then for Elche, which returned to the top flight in Spain after a 24-year absence last season. After narrowly avoiding relegation in their first campaign back, Fran Escribá’s side have begun this season with four points from the same number of games following a disappointing 2-0 loss to Eibar last Friday.
Prediction: With a front six of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodríguez, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, it is no surprise that Real Madrid have secured a couple of emphatic wins. The issue with that lineup has been, and will be, when coming up against high quality opposition that is capable of putting Madrid under pressure and exposing the unbalanced nature of the team. That is unlikely to be the case on Tuesday against a club that were the lowest scorers in La Liga last season and have failed to score in half their matches this campaign. Even if Ancelotti makes several changes, Madrid should still emerge with a comfortable win.
Real Madrid 3-0 Elche
Kickoff time: 2 p.m. ET
TV channel: BeIN Sports
Live stream: BeIN Sports Connect