Which second-string stars can show festive spirit for Real Madrid?
Real Madrid, 10/3 with Coral to lift the Champions League, have swept almost all before them so far this season, demolishing one opponent after another in an unbelievable 17-game winning streak.
So it is no wonder that Los Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti (odds-on favourites at 1/2 to lift La Liga) is content with his superstar squad.
Three-time Champions League winner Ancelotti has stated La Liga leaders Real “will not be making any signings in January” and that he is “happy with my squad. No Real Madrid players will be sold.”
An ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it approach’ seems wise to preserve an unusually prudent Los Blancos’ team spirit.
So, in light of the Madrid manager’s apparent reluctance to dip into the January sales, we consider who from the current Real ranks may take their chance to come in from the cold and step up over a hectic festive fixture list.
It has been confirmed that former Real Sociedad star Illarramendi will fill in for suspended Isco next time out, and the Spaniard needs to impress. Now in his second season with the capital club, the 24-year-old has not made a single La Liga start this term.
Once hailed as a replacement for now departed Xabi Alonso, Illarramendi has so far failed to seize his chances. Luka Modric’s injury should have seen him propelled up the pecking order, but attacker Isco has instead been tasked with adapting to a deeper role. His compatriot’s absence now opens the door and the anchorman must keep it ajar.
Highly-rated 21-year-old Jese recently returned from a long injury lay-off, and has much catching up to do. It is no easy feat to break into Los Blancos’ first XI, but the Castilla product has looked at ease alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
Jese netted on his comeback in the Copa del Rey and the tricky wingman, who was on the fringes of Vicente del Bosque’s Spain squad before being sidelined, will be aiming to pick up where he left off. With La Roja handing out debuts galore recently, omens are good for the youngster.
Madrid are in danger of losing top prospect Varane, according to reports. A host of Premier League giants are rumoured to be circling, with the composed centre half said to be ready to bid goodbye to the Bernabeu in search of a regular starting berth.
The France international is already a regular for his country, and Los Blancos would be unwise to offload the talented youngster, who cannot seem to break up the preferred partnership of Sergio Ramos and Pepe.
At just 21, Varane is almost a complete package. Quick, strong, adept at anticipating opposition attacks and more than comfortable in possession, if the youngster develops as expected he could be one of the best in his position.
In this case, Real should take a risk and prioritise future over present, by giving Varane the chance to dislodge temperamental Portugal star Pepe.