Carlo Ancelotti must decide between Iker Casillas and Keylor Navas for the Real Madrid goalkeeper’s jersey, as they begin the defence of their UEFA Champions League crown this evening.
The reigning champions are up against Swiss side FC Basel at Santiago Bernabeu this evening, and the manager has a big decision to make as to who will be his number one.
Casillas has found himself under scrutiny recently, with some sections of the home fans wrongly jeering him off the field after their derby defeat to Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
Though this may well be unjustified, the main concern is finding the solution that will put an end to Real’s torrid start to the season which has seen than register two defeats already.
33-year-old Casillas was used mainly in European games last season and Ancelotti’s intentions could be revealed with his selection this evening.
Navas is undoubtedly a natural successor for Casillas following his brilliant World Cup with Costa Rica in the summer, but he still has a lot to live up to and being used in Cup and European games will definitely help him towards eventually making that transition.
At the other end of the field, Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to be rested this evening as he continues to work towards a return to full fitness. Isco could well be the man to take his place alongside James Rodriguez and Gareth in the attacking trio behind Karim Benzema.
Javier Hernandez will also be hoping for a chance to exploit his abilities on the continental stage for the first time at his new club. His pace and quick movement will definitely offer Real another good outlet from the bench against tired European legs.
The Swiss champions will be no pushovers whatsoever though. Despite only ever reaching the last 16 on two occasions, they did the double over Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the group stages last year and reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League two seasons ago.
Real’s biggest threat during the group stage should be English Premier League runners-up Liverpool, who are back among Europe’s elite for the first time in five years. They host Bulgarian debutants Ludogorets in the other game in Group B tonight.
It should be a straight shootout between Real and Liverpool for top spot come December, but last season’s La Decima winners need to start winning and producing better performances or they could be in trouble.
Mind you, the 1996/97 season was the last time we did not see them in the knockout stages of the competition and that was only because they had not qualified.