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Ancelotti gets Real Madrid's engine back on track

The Italian coach never counted on Kross, Modric and Casemiro in the midfield during his first spell at Real Madrid
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Real Madrid is soaring in La Liga with a wide lead over their pursuers. They have left Sevilla, Betis and Real Sociedad behind and have put sporting and psychological distance between themselves and Atlético de Madrid and Barcelona after beating them both in the first half of the season. 

Carlo Ancelotti has found in his return to Real Madrid three players that he did not have together in his first stage. In 2013-2014, the season that brought the Champions League back to Real Madrid's trophy cabinet, his trusted midfield was made up of Modric, Xabi Alonso and Isco in terms of minutes played. In the 2014-2015 season it was Kroos, Isco and James who, curiously, played more minutes in the whole season than Modric who spent much of the season injured in his thigh and knee. Casemiro began to enter Real Madrid's plans just the following season with Zidane on the bench. 

Now Ancelotti risks making the mistake of his last season when the team began to show fatigue in the second half of the season and suffered defeats against important teams such as Atlético and Barcelona that caused them to lose the league. The age of the players is increasing and so is their wear and tear. The world football calendar has doubled the number of matches, there are more trips, training camps with the national teams... and this leads them to the extreme of muscular injuries.

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After last season's lamentable run with the infirmary, this year with David Bettoni controlling the physical side of things, it seems that the relapses have stopped and only Bale maintains that special idyll with injuries. In professional teams everything is measured, every metre they run, every effort, every training session and every match. The data warns of possible injuries and coaches don't tend to take risks. Added to that is the professionalisation of the players' lives, who adapt everything they do to perform at their best, as has been the case with Carvajal and his change of habits. 

Casemiro

The Brazilian player is the most used by Ancelotti. He has played 1,822 minutes. He has started 22 games and has been called up in 23. He has provided three assists and has received six yellow cards. He plays everything and was only a substitute in Mallorca. It is necessary to add the matches with Brazil. History already warns of his drops in performance due to exhaustion. With Zidane he already suffered that moment on the pitch because he was indispensable, even if he wasn't at one hundred percent. 

Kroos

The German has less wear and tear thanks to an injury he picked up in the first seven games. He has played 1,202 minutes and has started all 15 games played. He has three goals, two assists and two yellow cards. Ancelotti has changed him six times, but always after 90 minutes. 

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Modric

The lungs of Real Madrid. The injuries of Ancelotti's last season were drawing to an end for him at Real Madrid. Everything indicated that he would retire with honours, but he rose from the ashes physically. He has started 18 of the 19 games in which he has been called up and has played 1,396 minutes with five assists and one yellow card. Ancelotti has substituted him in 11 games, always after 70 minutes. He was only a substitute against Mallorca, although he missed four games due to injury. 

These figures leave one conclusion: Ancelotti is looking to match the minutes of Real Madrid's midfield and force the white machine to open a gap with the rivals. Another important issue will be to see what the Italian and his coaching staff do in January with the Copa del Rey and the Supercopa and players like Camavinga, Valverde and Isco. 

Valverde is set to be Real Madrid's next central midfielder. His physical problems have cut short his progression. This season he has 971 minutes and one assist. He has come off the bench seven times. Camavinga is another midfielder of the future. He has scored one goal and has seen four yellow cards for his hard play. Ancelotti has given him 11 substitute appearances. Isco has been relegated and has less minutes than Bale. 

January will be a very demanding month for Real Madrid because in addition to the Copa del Rey, there is the Spanish SuperCopa in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with Barcelona as the first semi-final opponent. In February, the Champions League will come with PSG as their opponents. After that, an uphill climb of competitions in which to reinforce the work of the first few months.