Real Madrid figuring out how to replace Xabi Alonso, and maybe Karim Benzema

Carlo Ancelotti has very different options for replacing Xabi Alonso, and perhaps Karim Benzema.

Update: Real Madrid beat Atlético Madrid

Real Madrid have had a couple of injury and suspension blows ahead of the Champions League final, possibly handing opportunities to a few players who otherwise wouldn't have had them. A knock to Karim Benzema hasn't yet ruled him out, though Álvaro Morata and Isco are both waiting in the wings for a starting spot. In midfield, Asier Illarramendi and Sami Khedira are hoping to capitalise on Xabi Alonso's suspension, while Álvaro "Steady Eddie" Arbeloa could just sneak in ahead of Dani Carvajal.

Álvaro Morata vs. Isco

It's looking likely that Real Madrid's first-choice centre-forward Karim Benzema will recover from a groin injury in time to make the Merengues' starting 11, though if he didn't, then his replacement would almost certainly be one of Álvaro Morata or Isco. Morata would be more of a like-for-like replacement, with the 21-year-old a centre-forward rather than an advanced playmaker like Isco, whose favourite position is playing off the striker.

Playing Morata would cause minimal disruption to Madrid's current tactical system, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to stay where he's most effective out on the flank. However, throwing such a young and inexperienced player as Morata into as big a game as this is hardly ideal. He's actually got a reasonably good scoring record this season, netting nine times despite having made only four starts, though suffice to say, he's nowhere near Benzema's level yet.

Instead, it's possible that Isco would play, either as a false nine -- a nominal centre-forward who drops into the midfield in the offensive phase -- thus creating space for Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to cut into, or switching with Ronaldo and starting out on the left and drifting inside. Neither of these options is ideal, disrupting Carlo Ancelotti's system, but Morata's inexperience could force such a change. At present, though, it's looking like a decision Ancelotti won't have to make, as Benzema should be fit enough to play.

Asier Illarramendi vs. Sami Khedira

A spanner has been thrown in the Madrid midfield works by the absence of the suspended Xabi Alonso. It has left a vacancy in the midfield trio that will either be filled by Asier Illarramendi or Sami Khedira. Despite the latter's experience and proven quality, the early advantage rests with Illarramendi.

That's partly for the greater defensive security that Illarramendi offers, with sitting deep and shielding the defence one of his strongest attributes. Khedira isn't too bad defensively either, though he's at his best when he's given a box-to-box role, able to burst through and link the midfield with the attack on the break, and tirelessly press his opponents when in the defensive phase. Given that the absent Alonso is the closest thing to a holding midfielder Madrid have, it's Illarramendi who seems better suited to the role.

An alternative would be to play Luka Modrić in the Alonso role and bring Khedira in higher up the pitch, though that's not ideal either, as Modrić is exceptionally good at carrying the ball forward and sparking a counter-attack with a quick through-ball. Negating that threat wouldn't be great. There's also the issue that Khedira has only just recovered from a serious ACL injury, and isn't yet at full fitness. He'll probably have to settle for a place on the bench.

Dani Carvajal vs. Álvaro Arbeloa

Dani Carvajal has enjoyed an excellent season at right-back since being re-signed from Bayer Leverkusen, with the Spanish international having made 32 starts and just eight substitute appearances in the campaign to date. He's immediately displaced his veteran compatriot Álvaro Arbeloa, though there's the possibility that the 31-year-old could make a return to the Merengues' starting lineup here.

If that decision is made, the logic will presumably be that Arbeloa is a little steadier at the back. Certainly he's nowhere near as spectacular a player and doesn't offer anywhere near as much going forward as Carvajal, though up against one of Atléti's key attacking threats in Koke, it could well be a case of defence first -- particularly with one of the adventurous duo of Marcelo and Fábio Coentrão set to be given the nod on the left.

Still, Carvajal has shown himself to be a great player this season, and could well start for Spain at the World Cup because of it. Don't be surprised to see either of these names on Ancelotti's teamsheet.

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