It only seems a matter of time now before Real Madrid sack Julen Lopetegui after their 5-1 defeat to Barcelona last weekend.
The European champions are ninth in La Liga, already seven points off the top. They’re way out at 6/1 to claw their way back and lift the title.
Antonio Conte is now just 1/2 to come in as Lopetegui’s replacement. Very few managers have the Italian’s tactical nous. But Chelsea’s squad grew tired of his repetitive training sessions that focused on team shape. How will Madrid’s superstars react?
We’ve taken a look at how Conte could set up his team if he gets the job…
Thibaut Courtois still has work to do to prove he’s a better option than Keylor Navas in goal. But Conte knows the Belgian well from their time at Chelsea together.
Madrid switched to a back three during the second-half of their mauling at Camp Nou. It may become a regular sight under Conte. Raphael Varane and Nacho could line up either side of Sergio Ramos.
Marcelo could be perfect as a wing-back. He’s always been more comfortable attacking than defending. Now there’ll be extra cover for when he charges forward.
On the other side, Dani Carvajal would be as dependable as a wing-back as he is at right-back. But Conte could be tempted to convert a hard-working winger for extra attacking thrust. He did it with Victor Moses at Chelsea. Lucas Vazquez could perform a similar role for Real.
The engine room
The midfield is likely to involve the trio of Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
Casemiro and Kroos could play centrally, with Modric ahead as the number 10. Or Casemiro could be the anchorman, with the two playmakers further forward.
Isco, Marco Asensio and Dani Cebellos all have incredible talent. But do they do enough defensive work for Conte’s liking? There’s usually only room for one maverick in his teams…
That maverick may well be Gareth Bale, as long as he can stay fit. The Welshman made a superb start to the season with four goals in five games for club and country. But injury problems and the team’s poor form has seen him slow down lately.
As the club didn’t sign a ready-made replacement for Ronaldo, Karim Benzema is the obvious candidate to start alongside Bale. He doesn’t score enough goals, but his movement and link-up play remains top notch.
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