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Kroos and Valverde benched for UCL opener

With respect, European giants Real Madrid couldn’t have wished for a better opening game for their 2023/24 Champions League campaign.

Los Blancos host Union Berlin and, as expected, Carlo Ancelotti has still been able to name a strong XI despite dropping midfielders Toni Kroos and Fede Valverde to the bench.

The Spaniards are likely to take some stopping if their domestic form is anything to go by, given that they’re the only team in La Liga to still have a perfect record after five games.

Jude Bellingham has the chance to shine on the European stage again, with Luka Modric, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni joining him in midfield.

Kepa starts in goal as expected, and he’ll be protected by Antonio Rudiger, David Alaba, Nacho and Lucas Vazquez, whilst Rodrygo and Joselu will again play just ahead of Bellingham who’ll drive from the middle of the park.

The England international is in fine personal form at present and it would be no surprise at all if he were to be the fulcrum again for Real Madrid.

Complacency has got the better of the hosts in the competition before of course, so it’s a fair bet that Ancelotti will want to ensure that his squad are fully focused on the job in hand.


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