Unlike last year, the temporary loss of Bale is not devastating because the squad depth currently at the Spaniard's disposal. It is worrying though that Madrid has lost three starters this early into the season.
Bale has been used as a 10 with the ability to roam out to the wing positions, either right or left. It’s interesting to see how he has adapted to this role and has shown glimpses of the Bale we saw in 2013/14. His runs in behind the opposing defenses really stretches oppositions and creates space for Modric and Kroos. When he does drift out wide, he gets plenty of dangerous crosses into the box. Bale is so integral to this team finding a like for like replacement is nearly impossible.
Jese should be seen as the first option off the bench but interestingly has gone unused after his start in the season opener. Benitez had started him every game during the preseason where he showed glimpses of the gem we saw in 2013. During the pre-season, he was used as a 9 but we have seen how dangerous he can be when used out wide. The Spaniard shares many similarities to Bale. An exceptional dribbler, who can also skip past defenders and an exceptional finisher; I would say a more effective finisher than Bale. Tactically he does not create the space, which would allow Modric and Kroos to function effectively.
Kovacic is also an interesting option, while he is yet to feature as a starter. Benitez clearly has faith in the youngster, opting to bring him as a sub in every game so far. He is set to be a massive signing for for Los Blancos. He is a strong dribbler and would be able to slide into the 10. Also an extremely active player and would be able to create the space that Modric and Kroos need. His link up play would fit in will behind Benzema. Tactically he isn’t a player who makes many runs in behind the forwards and is not a goal threat at this point in his career.
Lucas Vázquez was given the start this past weekend. By no means did he play a great game but neither did the team as a whole. Tactically it was interesting to see him stay out wide on the right side the entire game. Opting to play Isco as the 10, Vasquez was asked to stay out wide and stretch the Granada defense. This gave Isco plenty of space and even allowed Modric to push up a little further and put himself in goal scoring opportunities.
Each player can be a solid replacement, although none can really replicate Bales role. At this point in the season, look to see Rafa make the most of Bales absent by assessing his players and rotating between the three.