Real Madrid travel to San Mames on Wednesday to take on Athletic Club in a rearranged LaLiga Santander fixture and will do so with a host of unfamiliar faces in the group as COVID-19 has forced Carlo Ancelotti to turn to the academy for numbers.
The Italian boss has 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 be able to field a strong starting XI, but the names bench might have a few people scratching their heads.
Two of the seven La Fabrica products are goalkeepers, with Toni Fuidias and Diego Pineiro travelling as understudies to 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 centre back and has been called upon as extra cover in case anything should happen to Eder Militao or Nacho Fernandez, who will start the game in the Basque Country.
🚨| Rafa Marin has been called up to the first team for the first time. He could've left on loan in the summer but chose to keep him. He has great personality and a great reading of the game, which made him a key part of Raul’s Castilla side. @marca #rmalive pic.twitter.com/Yt4HM2fVzk
— Madrid Zone (@theMadridZone) December 22, 2021
Jesus Vallejo will be the first replacement if one of them becomes unavailable and behind him stands Marin, who comes with excellent reports as a focused and reliable defender.
Miguel and Blanco: A bit more experience
Left-back Miguel Gutierrez is no stranger by now to first-team action and has already started games this season, so Ancelotti knows he can be relied on if needed.
— Miguel Gutiérrez (@Miguel3Guti) December 20, 2021
Antonio Blanco has also been around the senior squad before and has a similar profile to Casemiro in terms of his game, although Eduardo Camavinga will start in the Brazilian’s absence.
Peter Federico causing excitement
The 19-year-old winger was on the bench for the game against Cadiz and fans were hoping for a glimpse of this exciting prospect, but with the game tied, Ancelotti opted against bringing him on for Hazard.
Since all our RWs are out, would you like to see Peter Federico get a chance against Cadiz? 👇 pic.twitter.com/tZsHQsNWsj
— Madrid Xtra. (@MadridXtra) December 16, 2021
Perhaps at San Mames, he will get his chance and his dribbling skills could prove useful against a stubborn defence such as Athletic’s.
Arribas, the prize jewel
Sergio Arribas, 20, is an attacking midfielder who is well regarded at the club and often featured in Zinedine Zidane’s squads, but competition in his position has limited his opportunities.
Arribas’ first call up by Carlo Ancelotti.
The young talent continues to impress at Castilla and showed his talent under Zidane. pic.twitter.com/KfpOVCEu4g
— Madrid Xtra. (@MadridXtra) December 21, 2021
This COVID-19 mini-crisis may have opened the door for him to stake his claim.