Carlo Ancelotti
Carlo Ancelotti's headaches are increasing as more Real Madrid players become unavailable due to injury or suspension. AFP / OSCAR DEL POZO

Real Madrid will be entering the new year on top of the La Liga table. They managed to squeeze a victory out of their final league match of the year against Deportivo Alaves on Thursday, despite playing most of the second half with only ten men.

Meanwhile, Girona dropped points earlier in the evening at Real Betis, putting them back down to second place on the table despite being level on points with Los Blancos. Carlo Ancelotti's men have taken the top spot thanks to superior goal difference.

Real Madrid collected three crucial points despite having had a frustrating evening. They had a difficult first half with barely any chances except for a close-range shot by Federico Valverde. However, Alaves keeper Antonio Sivera stood his ground and managed to keep the ball out.

It was still goalless at half-time, and it seemed as though Real Madrid were in trouble after Nacho Fernandez was sent off less than ten minutes after the restart. He was originally given a yellow card for a strong challenge on Samu Omorodion, but the referee changed his decision after a VAR check. The card was upgraded to red, reducing Real Madrid down to ten men for the remainder of the match.

However, Real Madrid always fight until the end, and they managed to find the winner during stoppage time. Midfield maestro Toni Kroos took a corner and managed to find the smallest player on the pitch. Lucas Vazquez, who headed home to score the winner.

The Real Madrid bench erupted in celebration, while the opposite bench also erupted in frustration. Real Madrid have done enough to end 2023 at the top spot, but only on goal difference. This means that the next few months will be crucial for the title race, with both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid also within striking distance.

Real Madrid facing major crisis in defence

While Real Madrid appear to have had a very positive start to their season both domestically and in Europe, they are also hanging by a thread when it comes to their injury crisis. In particular, their central defence is in chaos, with both Eder Militao and David Alaba out due to long-term ACL injuries.

The dismissal of Nacho Fernandez against Alaves is already his second dismissal this season, meaning he will be suspended for at least two matches. He received his first red card against Girona in September, and now his second dismissal may prompt the Competition Committee to hand him a longer suspension. If that happens, Real Madrid may need to rethink their plans for the January transfer window.

The only available senior centre-back is Antonio Rudiger, with Aurelien Tchouameni filling in the gap as an emergency solution. The Frenchman will likely play as a defender for the upcoming matches against Mallorca and Almeria, which Nacho will miss on suspension.

Rodrygo set for tests on knee injury

Following last night's match against Alaves, it became clear that Brazilian forward Rodrygo has suffered a knock. Considering the club's current injury crisis, many are concerned about the severity of Rodrygo's knee issue.

He has stepped up in recent weeks, scoring eight goals and five assists in his last nine matches. However, he was seen complaining about something about his knee at the end of the match against Alaves.

According to Spanish publication Marca, the player will undergo tests on Friday to have a better picture of what he is dealing with. Meanwhile, Acelotti played down the concerns, saying that the player is simply tired at the end of the match.

Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao and David Alaba are already out due to ACL issues, and the last thing the club wants is to add to that list as the second half of the season begins.