Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that troubled striker Eden Hazard will be starting in Los Blancos' La Liga clash against Cadiz on Sunday. However, he clarified that the Belgian is getting a rare starting position not just because of a shortage of players that are currently healthy and available for selection.

Ancelotti spoke in a pre-match press conference just as the club battles an internal Covid-19 crisis. However, he said about Hazard: "Tomorrow he will be a starter. He will play because he has trained well and deserves to. Not because of the absentees."

Hazard vowed at the start of the season that he will do his best to prove to the club and its supporters that he deserves to be a Real Madrid player. However, things have not gone well so far, with the Belgian falling behind youngsters Vinicius Junior, Marco Asensio and Rodrygo Goes in the pecking order. Even Luka Jovic has done better than Hazard, having already had his moments of brilliance this season, despite previously languishing in the bench alongside the Belgian.

Ancelotti only has good words to say about the former Chelsea star. "He has been working very well. He hasn't changed mentally. His problem is that he hasn't always been able to train at 100 percent, as he is now."

The manager admitted that the strong performances of Vinicius Jr. have meant that the left flank is always covered, leaving Hazard out of his preferred position. "He is ready because of what he has shown in training. He wasn't used to playing on the right and I preferred Rodrygo and Asensio there," said Ancelotti.

With Vini firmly on the left, the manager is taking the opportunity to bring Hazard in on the right. Both Rodrygo and Marco Asensio have returned positive Covid-19 test results and will be unavailable to play on Sunday. The two players are part of an outbreak that also includes Gareth Bale, Andriy Lunin, Luka Modric, Marcelo and assistant coach Davide Ancelotti.

"He has what it takes to have a very good second half of the season and be useful for the team," said the manager, still refusing to state that the Covid situation is a major contributing factor to Hazard's start.

Nevertheless, Ancelotti is not overly bothered by the health crisis. "We have to live with this, both us and society. We never thought of postponing the match. We have to continue to live with this virus, which is now less strong. We have to be careful and cautious," he added.

In any case, La Liga regulations would still require the match to go ahead, as long as at least five players from the regular first team squad are available, and the club can come up with another eight players from the reserves and the youth team.

There are only two more matchdays before a short Christmas break allows the stricken players to recover. Ancelotti will be hoping that the holiday festivities won't result in more infections, and that the club can hold on to their five-point lead ahead of Sevilla even as players become unavailable.

Carlo Ancelotti
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP