Toni Kroos plays a vital part in Benitez's plans. The German along with the Croatian magician, Luka Modric are the two most essential players in midfield for Real. The last couple of games, including the incredibly lucky win against PSG and the dreadful away loss at Sevilla, have seen Benitez opt for playing Kroos in a more attacking role, as a CAM or a #10; however, for these last games the German international has looked a bit out of place and muddled and since dominating midfield plays such a big part in El Clasico, Benitez knows it will be crucial to get the best out of Kroos in order to win.
11 days ago Real took on Sevilla. The Andalusian squad was having some bad performances and some terrible results, including a loss away at Villareal right before they hosted Madrid at the Sanchez Pizjuan; however, unfortunately for Benitez they decided to end their bad form streak against Los Blancos. For this game Benitez decided to play Kroos in a more attacking role and placed him just in front of Modric and Casemiro, who were in charge of pressuring players on the ball and helping track back on defense, Casemiro especially.
Throughout the game Kroos was seen in the opposition's half for most of the game. He was often seen getting the ball from his back four and distributing passes to his wide men, as well as opening up play throughout the middle with Isco, ironically, he wasn't the most attack minded player in midfield for this game as Benitez had intended, that role was naturally taken by Modric. Throughout that first half when Madrid was giving off signals of domination on and off the ball, Luka Modric was at often times seen in that #10 position he knew very well from his time at Tottenham, with Isco often dropping to the left wing and Cristiano in the poacher's area. This layout left Kroos in a puzzled position where he didn't understand what his next move should be, whether running forward and attacking, something Modric was already doing or should he track back where Casemiro is already at.
Benitez knows that considering the form Barcelona are in there can't be any confusion in his game plan and considering he might not start James in this game, he will have three world class players in midfield to distribute, which leads me to my next point. Why have two players out on the field doing the same job?
Casemiro will give you long passes, some timely defensive tackles and that extra grit you need in midfield when defending against an opposition that has so many attacking players. On the other hand, Kroos doesn't give you such a strong presence defensively but holds a bit more quality on the attack with his impeccable passes and his shots from outside the box. When you add Modric to the equation and everything he brings to the game, Benitez will have a magnificently balanced midfield. So why not move Modric up to that #10 role he knows and enjoys, knowing that Luka always tracks back and defends will only reassure Benitez that he won't be having a problem adjusting when Barcelona have the ball, this will then leave Kroos free to play short passes while in a more central holding position, a position he excelled in last season and at the same time leaving solely Casemiro to be the defensive enforcer right next to him.
Benitez will definitely want to hit the ground running against Barcelona, whether defensively or offensively that remains to be seen. One thing's for sure though, if he doesn't get a win this Saturday and Barcelona go six points clear on the table; the squad, the fans, and undoubtedly the president will start asking some serious questions.