Gareth Bale’s stuttering start to his Real Madrid career is set to continue for a while yet, with the big-money signing from Tottenham suffering another muscular problem in his left thigh that rules him out of his side’s Champions League meeting with FC Copenhagen. It is hardly the news manager Carlo Ancelotti will have wanted as he faces up to some intense scrutiny following defeat to local rivals Atletico Madrid on Saturday. While the Spanish giants made an emphatic start to their Champions League campaign with a 6-1 win at Galatasaray, Ancelotti has explained that the visit of Copenhagen now takes on extra importance.
“The Atletico match was not good,” he stated, according to UEFA.com. “We need to react, to improve our results and performances. I feel very confident about my players and I'm sure we are going to respond well. Tomorrow's match is important. We started well in the UEFA Champions League so tomorrow's match takes on a different meaning -- it is not just about keeping on a good path in this competition but about changing attitude and spirit.”
While Real Madrid’s start to the season may not have been quite what Ancelotti will have wanted, he may take some comfort from taking a look at their opponents’ current predicament. Champions of the SAS Ligaen last season, Copenhagen failed to win any of their first matches last season. That led to a change in manager with Stale Solbakken who managed the club for five years before two short-lived spells in Germany with FC Koln and in England with Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Copenhagen still lie second from bottom of the table following Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Bronby but they did defy the odds and the balance of the game to get a 1-1 draw at home to Juventus on Matchday One of the Champions League. Yet, Solbakken is expecting an even tougher task at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.
“Let's not forget that Madrid scored six against Galatasaray, a team that could have reached the semifinals last season,” he said. “We have to be positive. The difference between Juventus and Madrid is that Madrid are filled with match winners, Juventus are a more compact team.”
Veteran defender Olof Mellberg is a doubt for the match after suffering a suspected concussion against Bronby. Meanwhile, Madrid could change things up at the center of their defense, with Raphael Varane potentially coming into the side to make his first appearance of the season. Luka Modric may start after replacing Asier Illarramendi at half-time against Atletico.
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Coentrao
M: Di Maria, Khedira, Modric, Isco
F: Benzema, Ronaldo
FC Copenhagen (probable)
D: Jacobsen, Mellberg, Sigurdsson, Bengtsson
M: Bolanos, Claudemir, Delaney, Braaten
F: Adi, Jorgensen
Prediction: There certainly remain problems for Madrid in trying to move away from a counter-attacking approach to a more possession-based style under Ancelotti. Karim Benzema’s struggles up front and his seemingly total lack of confidence in front of a crowd not slow to get on his back are also a worry given the lack of a proven top-level alternative. But there is likely to be some sort of positive reaction from Madrid’s players on Wednesday and they should have far too much for a Copenhagen side that have conceded plenty of goals in recent weeks.
Real Madrid 3-0 FC Copenhagen
Where to watch: The Champions League Group B match will kick off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Soccer Plus, with a live stream offered by Fox Soccer 2Go.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.