Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed he will field a weaker Real Madrid XI than usual in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 second leg against Schalke at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Madrid go into the game with a whopping 6-1 advantage from the first leg, with the Liga leaders also having next Sunday’s crunch clasico at home to third-placed Barcelona looming.
Add considering the effort made by the regular starters in Saturday’s tight 1-0 win at Malaga, the logical thing to do was to make some changes, according to Ancelotti.
“We are going to make some changes because we have had a game with a lot of physical effort, we have travelled, and we have not rested much,” he said. “To allow a good recovery for all the players we will make some changes. There are players who are tired. So will make some changes tomorrow.”
The Italian coach went as far as to say that youngsters Alvaro Morata, Jese Rodriguez and Isco would all be in the starting lineup against the German side, with the latter in particular getting a chance to feature in his new "all-round" midfield role on a big European night.
“Morata, Jese and [Cristiano] Ronaldo are the three who will play up front tomorrow,” Ancelotti said. “Tomorrow Isco will play [in midfield]. He has to get used to this position, which is a bit different, above all with defensive aspects. But both he and I are confident that he can play in that position.”
Other squad players to come in could include Asier Illarramendi, Nacho Fernandez and Fabio Coentrao in an XI which could show as many as seven changes from the team which started against Malaga.
Ancelotti denied any suggestion that the weakened team meant he was already looking past Schalke to Sunday’s crunch clasico.
“This is a Champions League game, very important, we must continue the team’s good moment,” he said. “That is the best way to prepare for Sunday, to play a good game, and get more confidence. We are looking to play a similar game to the first leg. We respect the competition, our own jobs, and the opposition team.”
Karim Benzema missed training on Monday morning with the knock to his thigh picked up in an accidental clash with Ronaldo at La Rosaleda. The French striker is definitely out against Schalke, but should be okay to return for the coming weekend’s clasico at home to Barcelona, suggested Ancelotti.
“He is recovering, he cannot play tomorrow,” he said. “We are confident he can recover for Sunday. Benzema is a very important player for us this year, not just for his goals. He has a knock, we hope he can recover. We have the luck that if he cannot play we can replace him well.”
The former Juventus, Milan, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain coach was also asked if this current Madrid squad [now 30 games unbeaten in all competitions] was the very best he had managed.
“I have had squads with a lot of quality,” Ancelotti said. “This one has something of everything -- youth, experience, character, personality. It could be the most complete I have had.”