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Should Real Madrid still make rotations in La Liga?

Is that a good strategy?

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Zinedine Zidane's planning and preparation for the run-in to the league season and the Champions League semi-final against Manchester City are likely to be dominated by the need to balance results with squad rotations while maintaining a challenge for both competitions.  As the French coach said after the Getafe game, Real Madrid have won nothing yet.  There are still five league games to come; and as far as the Champions League is concerned, it's a bit too early to be taking things for granted.

Zidane's thoughts are going to be dominated as always by who is going to be available as the final few weeks of the season approach.  Squad rotations had been suggested against Eibar and yet Madrid still managed to field the type of starting eleven that would almost be an automatic selection for most clubs in La Liga barring Barça and Atlético.  Against Getafe, it was a similar story.  The "BBC" turned out to lead the attack and although Luka Modrić, Sergio Ramos and Casemiro didn't play at Getafe, Madrid still managed to field a formidable side.

Zidane's problem comes in deciding who to pick for the next two games.

Beginning with Villarreal on Wednesday, Liverpool's European opponents aren't going to be an easy team to beat.  The "Yellow Submarine" are still looking to finish in the top four and will be coming to the Bernabéu in search of points.  Although both sides are going to have one eye on their forthcoming European fixtures, the result on the night is going to be vital for each.  A harder game than perhaps would normally be anticipated is therefore likely.

As if that's not enough, the following week's match against a Rayo Vallecano side who are desperate for points for a different reason is likely to be even harder.  Apart from anything else it's going to be the first meeting in La Liga between Zinedine Zidane and Paco Jémez; but although Madrid have a good record in Vallecas, playing at Rayo Vallecano is never easy especially with the current focus on staying in the division taking priority.

Rayo Vallecano certainly won't be giving Madrid an easy ride in the lead up to the first leg of the Manchester City game, and if any squad rotations are contemplated then Vallecas might just be the place for Zidane to make them in.

One question that often arises when discussing squad rotations is always whether you are "dissing" the opposition.  Some players and coaches feel that by sending out what might be perceived as a weakened team could be considered as an insult to fellow professionals.  As far as Real's next two opponents are concerned, I don't think that either Paco Jémez or Marcelino of Villarreal will argue if any of the "BBC" are omitted from Zidane's squad but that's a footballing decision only he can make at the time.

Decisions on rotations are going to be dependent on who is carrying any injuries or perhaps even on who is maybe looking a bit jaded as we enter these final few weeks.

Based on Madrid's line-ups in the last two games against Eibar and Getafe, though, the reality of Madrid fielding what might be perceived to be a potentially weakened team in the weeks to come might only be on paper.

Madrid appear to be in a fairly good position with regards to injuries at the moment.  Both Gareth Bale and Raphaël Varane seem to have recovered well enough following their recent calf injuries and although Sunday was originally intended as a rest day, any adverse reactions after the Getafe game or new injury concerns will have been reported by now.  Assessments as usual will take place over the next 24 hours and Zidane will then be in a position to make any judgements on fitness thereafter.

Rehab is particularly important at this stage since any setbacks or injury recurrences can potentially finish a player's season simply because you can easily run out of time and games to play in.

We're certainly building up to an exciting if somewhat nerve-racking climax to the current campaign, but as always in football, not everything is in your own hands.  Zinedine Zidane urged caution before the Getafe game in reiterating that Madrid at that stage were third in La Liga, and the first objective was to move into second place and everything else would fall into place after that.

Looking further ahead, the hard facts are that Real aren't going to win the league title unless Barça and Atlético drop a few points between now and the season's end but the Champions League is a different story.  Real Madrid have both the capability and ownership of their own destiny for this one; with success or failure entirely in their own hands.  Atlético are in much the same boat; with both the league and the European challenge to focus on and it will be interesting to see how Diego Simeone manages the same scenarios that Zinedine Zidane now faces.

Apart from the Copa del Rey final which comes after the league season ends, Barça can of course now give La Liga their undivided attention but it doesn't necessarily mean that finishing in pole position will be any easier.  From Real Madrid's viewpoint, though, there are still fifteen points to play for and at what stage - if at all - do you concede that you're not going to win it?  It wouldn't make sense to write off the league with five games left.

It's arguable who has the most difficult run in of the top three.  Atlético still have to travel to Bilbao and Levante; facing Malaga, Rayo Vallecano and Celta Vigo at home.  Barça go to Deportivo, Betis and Granada; while hosting Sporting and Espanyol.  In addition to the forthcoming fixtures with Villarreal and Rayo Vallecano, Madrid still have to visit Real Sociedad in the league and will then be left with Valencia at home and a last game of the season trip to La Coruña.

So in terms of the scenario involving both competitions, by the time that Manchester City come to the Bernabéu for the second leg of the Champions League semi-final in early May, the overall picture is likely to be a lot clearer.  The need to balance results with rotations and the rest will be uppermost in Zidane's mind in the coming weeks.

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