Sunday afternoon, Gareth Bale sat on the pitch just minutes before halftime. Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo gazed down upon the Welshman who sat motionless, downhearted while thousands of onlookers held their breath. The trainers huddled around, examining Bale's calf, but ultimately, the winger knew his day was over as he stood up and limped to the sideline.
Days later, Real Madrid confirmed that Bale will miss their next four matches as he races back to face Roma in the Champions League in four weeks time. A dire blow to say the least considering Bale's form has been out of this world recently, scoring nine goals in his last five league games. It's been arguably his most consistent performance since arriving in the Spanish capital which makes replacing him that much more difficult.
Of course, one's setback is another's opportunity. And in this case, it seems that Jesé and James Rodríguez will cash in while Bale spends time on the bench.
The obvious choice for Zinedine Zidane, at least heading towards this weekend would be to insert Jesé into his already established 4-3-3. The three-attacker formation has worked like a charm since Zidane stepped in as his beloved club scored 10 goals in two matches. Inserting Jesé doesn't necessarily divert from the Frenchman's thus far proven tactics as the young forward would operate on the right while switching sides with Ronaldo on occasion.
However, that's just one option that Zidane holds.
The other would be to brush the dust off his consummate Colombian, switching to a 4-4-2.
After a spectacular first-year, James's prosperity turned into adversity. The midfielder's sophomore season hasn't gone to plan whatsoever. There have been injuries and disagreements with managers, some questioned his professionalism and he's been caught speeding at 200 kilometers per hour among a plethora of other newsworthy headlines.
James hasn't contracted the ecstasy that's surrounded Zidane just yet, but all could change if the Frenchman gives him the nod.
With James in the lineup, he would no longer, or for at least a few weeks, have to battle Isco for the third spot in the ordinary midfield. He's been in a positional battle with the Spaniard under Rafa Benítez (and now Zindane) but frankly, Isco has shined when given the opportunity. However, now with Bale sidelined, James would play alongside the young Spanish midfielder in what would be a formation with four midfielders.
James could be thrown into the lineup and wouldn't have to fight for minutes. He could be given extended time on the pitch which ultimately may allow the Colombian to acquire a bit of sensational form himself.
The setup worked in late 2014 under Carlo Ancelotti who showed his flexibility and utilized the formation to perfection. Until Bale returns, there's no reason Real Madrid couldn't vanquish their upcoming opponents whether Jesé is inserted or Zidane exhibits the 4-4-2. Ultimately, the Frenchman should remain unbeaten heading into Rome.