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Real Madrid begin their run in the Champions League round of 16 with a round of 16 draw with Italian Atalanta on Wednesday night.
Los Blancos have slumped in domestic competition this season and have failed to lead La Liga in their defense of last season’s title, placing second behind Atlético de Madrid in what has been an inconsistent campaign thus far.
The criticism of Zinedine Zidane and the constant doubts about the future of Sergio Ramos have been to no avail, but Real still managed to top their group and can now start again with a positive display against Gian Piero Gasperini’s team.
With injuries to its main event players plaguing its star-studded roster, this is how Zidane’s team could line up.
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – The Belgian has had to be at his best this season with defensive injuries and inconsistencies that make his job very difficult.
Lucas Vasquez (RB) – Dani Carvajal is recovering from a hamstring injury, so the Real manager will likely have to return to defensive duties.
Raphael Varane (CB) – Varane takes authority as the experienced and consistent head on the back with abundant injuries. He achieved a double against Huesca in the league two weeks ago; maybe I can do it again.
Nacho (CB) – The 31-year-old has taken on the task in the absence of Ramos and Eder Militao. He has a chance to impress in the first leg, with the Madrid captain aiming for the return.
Ferland Mendy (LB) – Mendy has gotten in shape this season for Real and impressed in his 20 league appearances. The Champions League is your chance to impress on the big stage.
Casemiro (DM) – The best defensive midfielder in the world? Probably. Casemiro came up with the merchandise to give his team victory this weekend and it will be key in deciding the midfield battle in this one.
Toni Kroos (CM) – Five assists from his last five games, the German World Cup winner is in electric shape lately.
Luka Modric (CM) – Rounding out a tremendously talented midfield three is Luka Modric. Atalanta has a great task on her hands to win the battle over this trio.
Marco Asensio (RW) – Asensio was once considered the next big star before injuries took their toll. With Real out of options, the 25-year-old needs to make the most of the opportunity to impress on the big stage.
Mariano (ST) – Without Karim Benzema and without Rodrygo, Mariano maintains his place on the side. No pressure.
Vinicius Junior (LW) – There has been much criticism about Vinicius’ lack of impact in the absence of Eden Hazard. However, he is still 20 years old and has a long time to develop.