Real Madrid vs. Manchester City: 3 biggest tactical decisions for Carlo Ancelotti in the first leg

Real Madrid, Fede Valverde, Carlo Ancelotti (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Fede Valverde, Carlo Ancelotti (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /
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Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Real Madrid
Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Real Madrid (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) /

What would Real Madrid’s midfield look like?

Casemiro is reportedly a doubt for the first leg against Man City. Even if Casemiro can play, Ancelotti may hesitate to trust him as we saw his limitations building from the back in full effect during that Round of 16 tie against City in 2020.

Madrid do not have a natural backup for Casemiro. Kroos and Camavinga are the most likely options to start in defensive midfield if Casemiro cannot play. Kroos started in his place in the second leg against PSG when Casemiro was suspended, and against Sevilla last weekend. Camavinga started there against Osasuna on Wednesday. Kroos offers more in the buildup than Camavinga, while Camavinga, despite his sometimes rash decision making and tendency to get booked, offers more defensively.

The midfield will also be affected by Ancelotti’s decision on who to play at RW, as Valverde could be deployed in midfield in Rodrygo starts on the wing. City press intensely and high up the pitch, so it will be important to start a midfield three that can best cope with the pressure.

I would recommend Carlo to go with Kroos-Camavinga-Modric in the midfield. Kroos will be freer to control the game playing as an 8 rather than a 6. Modric is obviously a must-start. And Camavinga adds some defensive ability in Casemiro’s absence. This midfield can play well under pressure and retain some possession against City’s press. This way Valverde can be played on the wing as well if Ancelotti wants to go that route.