By Mukwuzi Joseph
Real Madrid’s Covid outbreak got worse on Tuesday night when it was revealed that David Alaba has become the eighth player in Carlo Ancelotti’s squad to test positive.
Players Luka Modric, Rodrygo, Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale, Marcelo, Andriy Lunin all tested positive for the virus last week, while Isco become the seventh positive case confirmed by the club on Monday.
Modric, who has since tested negative, remains out of action because of symptoms, and now center back Alaba has entered into isolation, leaving Ancelotti with a threadbare squad for Wednesday’s trip to Athletic Bilbao.
Alaba and Isco had to sit out training while they waited for PCR test results and both came back positive.
In a week where Alaba was voted Austria’s Footballer of the Year for a record eighth time, he will now enter a 10-day isolation period.
It is a major blow to Ancelotti as Alaba had established himself as a key player for the LaLiga leaders in defense.
Ancelotti also won’t have three other first-team players in Bilbao on Wednesday: defender Dani Carvajal is injured, as is midfielder Dani Ceballos, while midfielder Casemiro is suspended after picking up five yellow cards.
As a result, with just 14 first-team players available, Ancelotti has called up seven youth team players to his latest squad.
‘It’s true that we are missing a lot of players and maybe we will have to consider a change in the system… I don’t know… I’m thinking about it,’ Ancelotti told a press conference on Tuesday.
‘The system that we currently play with (4-3-3) has given us a lot in recent games.
‘But we don’t have a right-winger available, and that’s the only thing that could make me change it to a 4-4-2. I have to wait for the night.’
Wednesday’s trip to Athletic Bilbao allows Real Madrid to return to winning ways after their 10-game winning run came to an abrupt halt with a stalemate 0-0 against Cadiz last time out.
Victory in Bilbao on Wednesday will see Real Madrid finish 2021 eight points clear of nearest rival Sevilla after they drew 1-1 with Barcelona on Tuesday night.
On a brighter note for Real and Ancelotti, Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard, who has been plagued with injury in the Spanish capital, played well last Sunday in his first game as a starter since September.
‘He has been training well for a month, with intensity and rhythm,’ Ancelotti added.
‘If I put him on again on Wednesday, I don’t think there’s a risk of more physical problems. The player is fine.’