Premier League

Carlo Ancelotti names surprise centre-back option to replace injured Antonio Rudiger against Atletico Madrid

Eduardo Camavinga

Carlo Ancelotti has admitted he is prepared to use midfielder Eduardo Camavinga at centre-back in Sunday’s Madrid derby if Antonio Rudiger fails to recover from injury in time.

The ever-reliable Rudiger is at risk of missing his first game through injury since his move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2022 after limping off midway through the 2-0 victory over Getafe last time out.

With Madrid already losing both Eder Militao and David Alaba to long-term injuries, Rudiger’s absence leaves just Nacho Fernandez as the only natural centre-back in Ancelotti’s squad, with Aurelien Tchouameni occasionally asked to drop back from midfield to help out.

Ahead of Sunday’s visit from Atletico Madrid, Ancelotti insisted he still has several options if Rudiger does not recover in time, with Camavinga a surprise inclusion on his list of alternatives.

“The third option would be Camavinga, who has never played there, but because of his profile, he can,” Ancelotti said after naming full-backs Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy as his preferred emergency centre-backs. “He’s quick, with good ball control and is strong in duels.

“Those would be the three options. But all three give me confidence. In my opinion, the job of a centre-back, of a pivot, is the easiest in football, because you have to use your head more than your energy. All three could do it well.”

Eduardo Camavinga

Camavinga could be deployed at the back / Mateo Villalba/GettyImages

Camavinga has never played at centre-back during his senior career but has spent time on the left of Madrid’s defence to help out another injury crisis, although the Frenchman has openly admitted he does not enjoy playing at the back.

All eyes will be on Rudiger, who is reported to have arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu early on Sunday for further treatment and medical checks ahead of the huge fixture.

Madrid head into the game sitting pretty at the top of the La Liga standings, one point clear of Girona having played one game fewer than their surprise title rivals.

Barcelona sit seven points behind Madrid, having also played one extra game, while Sunday’s opponents Atletico come into the game in fourth, ten points adrift of Ancelotti’s side.

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