In less than 24 hours, the beginning of a challenging two and a half weeks commences for Real Madrid. Combine the tough schedule with their current injury situation and the team needs to have a lot of confidence in themselves amidst some tactical adjustments.
For the back half of September, Madrid face off against Levante, Sevilla, Osasuna and Atletico Madrid in the league and also play games against Paris Saint-Germain and Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League.
Regardless if they had a full strength squad or not, September was always going to be a struggle.
But, as Zinedine Zidane explained in today’s press conference, a team can prepare as much as they want but nobody knows when injuries may strike. Looking at the current situation for the club, adjusting the formation on the pitch is necessary.
So what is the team’s best option here?
Luka Modric, Isco, Brahim Diaz, and Federico Valverde are all unavailable and the chances of seeing James Rodriguez could be slim. Thus, the only available players are Toni Kroos and Casemiro.
Without a structured core, it will be important for Madrid to have control of the games from different areas on the pitch, particularly on the wings and in front of their opposing goal.
Looking at the healthy players, playing in a 4-2-3-1 instead of the usual 4-3-3 might be the best option for Zidane and a possible starting XI could look something like this:
With this particular set up Madrid might be at its strongest in each area on the pitch.
Defensively, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane will have no difficulty helping Thibaut Courtois at the back as the pair have developed a good understanding of each other over the years. With Kroos and Casemiro acting as cover, the team would have four or possibly even six players at the back.
Fullbacks Marcelo and Dani Carvajal would then have the freedom to help carry the ball up top which they have successfully done so throughout the years. When needed, they would be able to drop back and help the four players stationed behind them. This really, isn’t unfamiliar for either of them.
The offensive option this starting XI brings is also strong. Both Kroos and Casemiro have the abilities to dictate the route of play and bring the team forward.
Add in the creativity eagerness of Vinicius Junior and Lucas Vazquez’s work rate on the wings and a lot of chances can be created. Both the Brazilian and the Vazquez have the ability to score themselves and create assists for Karim Benzema and Luka Jovic who at the same time could also be targets for Marcelo and Carvajal.
Benzema too would have the freedom to play down the middle and if he can emulate the skill from his early years at the Santiago Bernabeu it could be the decisive factor for winning games.
Using this lineup, no player is in an unfamiliar position so they already know what is expected of them. If all eleven can find the confidence to bet on themselves and their teammates, it could result in good outcomes for the club.
If Eden Hazard and James Rodriguez end up playing, that could make it even better.