Ancelotti back but will Real Madrid miss Ramos?

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If you are not sure what to do, go back to the past to try to save the future. That appears to be the motto of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who decided to appoint Carlo Ancelotti for a second spell as head coach after Zinedine Zidane’s resignation at the end of last season.

Ancelotti returns to the club where he won the Champions League, but failed to win La Liga, after unspectacular spells at Napoli and Everton, whom he only led to a mid-table finish last season.

The Italian takes on a squad that has lost two key players and signed one. Former club captain Sergio Ramos ended 16 years at the Bernabeu to join Paris Saint-Germain, while Raphael Varane was sold to Manchester United when it became clear he wasn’t going to sign a new contract, Xinhua reports.

David Alaba has joined on a free transfer and the excellent and versatile defender will plug at least one of the gaps at the back, with the other likely to be filled by Jesus Vallejo, who returns from loan at Granada, but whether or not Madrid miss Ramos and Varane will probably depend on Eder Militao continuing the progress he showed in the second half of last season when Ramos was out injured.

The return of Dani Carvajal at right-back should help Ancelotti, who needs Ferland Mendy to be fully fit to offer guarantees on the left as Marcelo gets a year older.

The absence of Toni Kroos with a groin injury will affect Madrid at the start of the season and perhaps longer, depending on his recovery time, and with Luka Modric another year older, once again a lot will depend on Casemiro performing in the holding role and Fede Valverde injecting energy into the middle of the park.

Kroos’s injury problems could give a chance to Dani Ceballos or Martin Odegaard to claim a place in the first team squad after both have spent the past two years on loan, but with three weeks until the end of the month, either could still leave the club.

There are also hopes that Isco can recover the form he showed in Ancelotti’s first spell in charge, and at 29, time is still on his side.

In attack, much will depend on whether Karim Benzema can continue the form which earned him a return to the France squad in the summer, although the fact Real Madrid’s main centre-forward will be 34 in December must be a cause for concern.

Gareth Bale’s return from his loan to Tottenham will also be capture a lot of headlines, with attention paid to his fitness and motivation. There is no doubt that a fit and motivated Bale is still a potent asset for the club and Ancelotti’s return could be a factor here given Bale’s poor relationship with Zidane, although the press and fans will no doubt be ready to pounce on any signs of the Welshman lacking commitment.

Elsewhere, the time has come for the Brazilian duo of Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr to turn promise into product, and to finally learn to turn their pace and ability to beat defenders into goals and assists. Both have had plenty of chances and have so far failed to take a definitive step up, and with the shadow of Kylian Mbappe supposedly lined up for next season, now would be a good time for both to start to deliver.

–IANS

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