As we reach the end of February, the football season is heading into the crucial stage where any slip up could end hopes of trophies and glory come May.
Real Madrid are in a good position at the time of going to press. Finalists in the Copa del Rey, where they will meet their biggest rivals Barcelona in April. In with a real chance of winning La Liga. And with their eyes on the coveted Decima Champions League trophy too.
The games will come thick and fast from here on in, so manager Carlo Ancelotti will need his players to be at their best. And he’ll need to be smart with his team selections too.
The return of Raphael Varane against Atletico de Madrid was a welcome sight for Madridistas. The Frenchman has missed large chunks of the campaign through injury, but will give Ancelotti an extra selection headache now. With players returning from injury – only Sami Khedira remains on the sidelines – the Italian manager has plenty to think about.
Rotation will play a part in how the rest of the season unfolds. But it is often said that you should never change a settled defence. With 10 clean sheets in their last 12 matches, Real are looking solid at the back. Pepe and Sergio Ramos have formed a superb partnership at the heart of the defence. Would putting Varane back in unsettle the team?
Likewise at full-back, Daniel Carvajal had put in some good performances throughout the campaign, but at 22 years of age, he is still learning his trade. Arbeloa, although less attacking than Carvajal, perhaps offers more defensive stability, and you know what you’ll get in every game with him. It’s certainly an interesting challenge for Ancelotti to think about.
The midfield picks itself at the moment – with Luka Modric in fine form, and Xabi Alonso being indispensable to the team. Di Maria is also playing well, and while Isco has come in and out of the team, his best position is as a central playmaker rather than on the wing. With the current 4-3-3 system being deployed, Isco seems t be a square peg in a round hole.
Jese’s performances in the attacking trio have caused many to sit up and take note. But can he really force his way into the team ahead of the BBC? Bale cost Madrid 91 million euros and with 11 goals to his name along with nine assists, has had a good season. Ronaldo is Ronaldo and is simply undroppable when he returns from suspension.
And despite not being a crowd favourite, Benzema is having his best season to date in a Real shirt, and recently drew level with former Madrid forward Ronaldo on the number of goals scored for the club.
Ancelotti has plenty to think about in the coming weeks regard team selection and keeping the balance right. Exciting times lie ahead.