Madrid must restore Ramos to right-back over Essien against Dortmund

The Ghanaian was at fault in the 2-1 group loss at BVB, and with Alvaro Arbeloa suspended, the Spain defender looks set to revert to his old role

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

It has long been a problem position. Real Madrid’s right-back role has been under scrutiny ever since Jose Mourinho arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in the summer of 2010. And almost three years on, there remains no satisfying solution. Against Borussia Dortmund, with Alvaro Arbeloa suspended, Sergio Ramos’ return to the right seems not only a likelihood, but a necessity.

Mourinho told Cadena SER in one of his very first interviews as Madrid coach that he ultimately saw Ramos as a central defender and not a full-back. In the Portuguese’s second season, Ramos reverted to a role in the middle of the Madrid back line, alongside Pepe, and has since switched to the centre for Spain as well.

For his part, the 27-year-old has always admitted he prefers playing in the heart of defence, yet he has also said he is happy to return to the right if required. The last time that happened, however, he was sent off – albeit very unfortunately – for two bookings within a minute in the league game against Rayo Vallecano.

Like Ramos, Xabi Alonso missed the second leg against Galatasaray through suspension and Madrid’s defensive solidity suffered.

Luka Modric impressed with his range of passing and technique in Turkey, but Alonso’s absence left Mourinho’s men without added protection alongside Sami Khedira and the Basque will be back for the game against Dortmund to provide extra support for a defence which will be tested once more in Germany.

Mourinho had been toying with the idea of fielding Ramos on the right in the Champions League tie against Manchester United in the last 16, but decided to stick with Arbeloa in the end. As it turned out, he was crucial to Madrid’s passage to the quarter-finals as it was the challenge from Nani on the former Liverpool defender which brought a shock red card for the Portugal winger and allowed the visitors to take control in the latter stages at Old Trafford.

Essien, meanwhile, has earned praise from former Madrid and Spain defender Michel Salgado for his performances as an auxiliary right-back. “Essien starting against Galatasaray was a surprise to everyone, but he has proved that he is a solid choice,” the player nicknamed Il Due said recently.

But the Ghanaian was run ragged in the Group D game at Dortmund (when he started on the left), unable to cope with the pace and trickery of Marco Reus. And the second BVB goal (in the 2-1 win for Jurgen Klopp’s side, who also drew 2-2 at the Bernabeu) emanated from that channel.

Marcelo, Fabio Coentrao and Arbeloa had all been injured for that match, so Ramos began on the right in Germany. This time, Essien should be back despite picking up a muscle strain against Galatasaray on Tuesday, although Arbeloa definitely will miss out after his red card late in that match.

So Ramos will likely return to the right for the trip to BVB this time with Pepe partnering Raphael Varane in the middle, with Coentrao’s defensive discipline meaning he is probably preferred to Marcelo on the left. After the scare in Turkey this week and the previous defeat at Dortmund, Madrid now need to defend better as they step up their quest for La Decima – and a simple switch on the right could hold the key to changing their fortunes against Jurgen Klopp’s men.

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