As Lucas wrote about just yesterday, Real Madrid confirmed that both Marcelo and Modric will be out for at least a month.
These two injuries are only the latest in what seems to be a constant refrain this season. We’ve discussed in the past how we aren't any more injury-prone than any other club, but is sure seems that way, especially since, unless I'm mistaken, we haven't had the ideal starting eleven even once this season. With the crux of the season coming up, Real Madrid will need their entire squad to push through to La Liga title.
At least count, Pepe, Bale, James, Carvajal, Modric, and Marcelo are all out. On the face of it, Zidane's choice for starting XI seems pretty straightforward. But let's take a look at the variables that will impact Zidane's options as he tries to maintain the lead in La Liga.
We're going to start with arguably our biggest challenge - what the heck are we going to do with our back line?
Assuming they can stay healthy, Varane and Ramos will start in the middle. While Nacho can literally play anywhere, it's now going to have to be left back for awhile since Marcelo is out. We all know what Nacho is capable of, and I'm fully confident in his abilities.
That leaves us right back…
I won't rehash anything from my very last feature since he was the sole focus, but we only have one other healthy defender, and the only other true right back in Danilo.
I think that this next stretch is going to be the maker/breaker for the former Porto man. He's got the raw talent, but he's going to have to come up big, and consistently, or, well, I don't want to think about the 'or'.
The other two options as I see them are a) play with three at the back in the form of Varane, Ramos, Nacho or b) use Lucas like we did last match. I'm not at all convinced that playing with three central backs as Zidane experimented with lately is the way to go. While it was largely effective for the first 80 mins of the loss to Sevilla, we haven't had enough time with it, and it stifles are ability to get forward as well. The latter option - young Vazquez certainly has the workrate, and hustles hard, so he's a nice to have in case of emergency, but he lacks the experience and positioning to want to count on that during big matches. But then, with our only two other options being 3 at the back or Danilo, maybe Lucas at right back isn’t such a bad idea.
The final variable to our thin defense, is that while still competing in the Copa del Rey and upcoming UCL matches, these four (maybe 5) guys are going to have to play every single minute and stay healthy. *FingersCrossed*
With Modric out, who's been our best, or second best player for, well, pretty much every match all season, our creativity, possession, and attacking build up are just going to take a hit no matter what. I fully expect to see Isco start alongside Kroos for the majority of the matches. Hopefully Zidane ends this recent foolishness of having Casemiro push so far forward. I don't get it, and as Om dissected, makes no tactical sense either.
We are admittedly the deepest in midfield, even with Modric and James out. Vazquez and Asensio can both play on either side of the midfield, and with Kovatic able to start in place of Isco if needed, we'll have plenty of options.
The thing I'm most worried about, is that our midfield workhorses in Kroos, Casemiro and Isco are going to need a rest with the volume of matches on the schedule. When they are rested or subbed for, we tend to lose our ability to create chances pretty significantly depending on our opposition.
Bale is still our only one out up front. And we know we've missed him something terrible in a few matches specifically. He absence means that Benzema and Cristiano have to be on point, and they've been anything but lately. Benzema has been solid overall and is continuously, incorrectly criticized, but we're seeing a pretty significant dry spell from CR7.
Since Morata hasn't had significant minutes since the early parts of the season (during which he performed very well, mind you) his attacking presence, while an added dimension, is very linear and he obviously struggles with cohesiveness with his teammates.
So I'm not as worried about the options we have up front due to injuries, even though I would kill to have Bale back and healthy, but I'm more worried about the quality of play, the ability to finish, and the lack up creative, effective buildup from the midfield I mentioned earlier.
My guess as to starting lineup for most of our matches, assuming everyone is healthy:
Here's hoping our fitness can get our remaining squad through a lot of minutes, they stay healthy, and our injured players return fit soon.