Real madrid travel to Saint Mames take over on wednesday Athletic section in a rebuilt LaLiga Santander adaptation and will do so with many strangers in the group, since COVID-19 forced Carlo Anchelotti go to the academy for numbers.
The Italian boss selected a total of seven academy players for the trip to Bilbao to cover the absence of 11 first-team players. Los Blancos will still have a strong starting lineup, but they might scratch their heads on the bench.
Two of La Fabrika’s seven products are goalkeepers, and Toni Fuidias and Diego Pineiro travel as stand-ins Thibaut Courtois… Five more make up the list: Rafa Marin, Miguel Gutierrez, Antonio Blanco, Peter Federico and Sergio Arribas…
Marin: Cover for Militao and Nacho
Rafa Marin is a center-back and was called in as extra cover in case anything happens to Eder Militao or Nacho Fernandez starting the game in the Basque Country. Jesús Vallejo will be the first substitute if one of them goes down, and behind him is Marin, who has excellent records as a dedicated and reliable defender.
Miguel and Blanco: a little more experience
Left-back Miguel Gutierrez is no stranger to first-team action and has already started playing this season, so Ancelotti knows he can be relied on when needed.
Antonio Blanco was also previously in the senior team and is similar in his game to Casemiro, although Eduardo Camaving will be in the starting lineup in the absence of the Brazilian.
Peter Federico is causing a stir
The 19-year-old striker was on the bench ahead of the match against Cadiz and fans hoped to see this exciting prospect, but given the draw, Ancelotti refused to replace him for Azar. Perhaps he will get his chance at San Mames, and his dribbling skills could prove useful against a tough defense like Athletic.
Arribas, the pearl of the prize
Sergio Arribas, 20, is an attacking midfielder who is well respected at the club and often featured in Zinedine Zidane’s squads, but the competition in his position is limiting his options. This COVID-19 mini-crisis may have opened the door for him to claim his rights.