Real Madrid got back to winning ways on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over Las Palmas at Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga thanks to Brahim Diaz and Joselu goals. It was not enough to go back to the top of the Spanish topflight, though, given Girona's unbeaten start to the season which keeps them one point ahead after seven games.
Real were well beaten 3-1 by Madrid rivals Atletico last weekend to end what had been a strong opening phase of the campaign for Carlo Ancelotti's side. However, arguably a bigger positive than the victory against the Canary Island side was the return of Vinicius Junior who came on after 57 minutes to replace Joselu.
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The Brazilian superstar was due to be involved against Atleti before illness struck to rule him out of the derby but his previous involvement before Wednesday dated back more than one month. Losing Vini Jr. during an early term flurry of injuries which included potential season-ending issues for both Thibaut Courtois and Eder Militao threw a sizeable spanner in the works for Ancelotti.
Factor in summer signing Arda Guler's recurrent injury problems since his arrival in Spain and now a potential injury to David Alaba too after he came off vs. Las Palmas, and it adds up. Ancelotti is already doing the best he can to extract the maximum from the likes of veteran midfield pair Luka Modric and Toni Kroos by limiting their game time for maximum impact.
Jude Bellingham has stepped into the middle and has started life with Los Blancos extremely well with five goals and one assist already. The decorated Croat and dependable German still offer important experience and almost unrivaled technique in the midfield despite their advancing ages along with Fede Valverde, Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga.
Arguably Ancelotti's biggest headache, though, is the fact that this Real side are largely relying upon the veteran Joselu to lead the attack. The 33-year-old Spanish journeyman has three goals and an assist so far this campaign but he has been out-scored by the impressive Bellingham who is currently punching well above his statistical expectations.
Vini Jr. should help to ease the burden on Joselu with a more consistent goal threat to also relieve Rodrygo of some of the pressure created by an early term reliance upon the Brazilian. Alaba's absence is likely to be more complicated, though, given that Antonio Rudiger is also a doubt ahead of this weekend's trip to face unbeaten La Liga leaders Girona in Catalonia.
Such a scenario leaves Ancelotti with just one fully fit central defensive option -- veteran captain Nacho Fernandez -- which will almost certainly dictate a reshuffle at the back for the Italian. It is in keeping with most of this season's theme so far of Ancelotti constantly having to find solutions for multiple problems which have appeared on an almost weekly basis.
Barcelona being held by Mallorca earlier this week has helped to keep things fairly tight at the top with nobody running away with an early campaign lead. Girona is a chance, despite all of those issues, for Real to actually seize control of the Spanish topflight ahead of a tricky away day against Napoli in UEFA Champions League Group C after a late win over Union Berlin in the opener.
Considering how this term has gone so far, it might get worse before it gets better for Ancelotti set to join the Brazil national team role and has seen Xabi Alonso as well as Roberto De Zerbi linked with his hotseat. Beating Girona at Montilivi with the returning Vini Jr. would be an ideal way to relieve some of that pressure and to keep the growing critics relatively quiet.