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Strong substitute performances crucial for Real Madrid’s tough matches

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A lot will be asked of the players coming off the bench.

Real Valladolid CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Xaume Olleros/Getty Images

With such a deep roster, making the starting line up for Real Madrid is always a battle. Each one of their games has featured a slightly adjusted starting XI depending on the opponent and the tactical approach from the coaching staff, resulting in various substitute options.

Looking ahead in the schedule, the club is approaching some tough matches. They meet Manchester City in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League and have El Clasico sandwiched in between as well as three other La Liga matches.

As they continue their quest for domestic and international titles, the key to success will be maintaining a strong performance throughout 90 minutes and Zinedine Zidane’s substitute choices will be crucial.

So far this season, Luka Jovic, Vinicius Junior and Luka Modric have been the club’s most used substitutes. If chosen to come off the bench, their performances must be strong enough to make a difference in these decisive games. Here’s a look at what each player adds the game.

Luka Jovic

Osasuna v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

When Real first bought Luka Jovic, the Serbian international was appointed as Karim Benzema’s successor. Out of all the players on the team, Jovic has been substituted on the pitch the most (15 games).

His ability to come on as a lethal attacking presence when the team needs a goal makes him an instant threat. Though he has yet to find his scoring boots, Jovic still makes the right runs and finds open space on the pitch. Putting the ball in the back of the net is the last step.

He currently has two goals and two assists to his name and will surely be looking to get some more under his belt before the season ends. If used as a substitute, Zidane will be looking for the striker to take the opportunity to do what he does best and score for the team when they need it the most - especially in those big games against City and Barcelona.

Vinicius Junior

Real Madrid v Celta de Vigo - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

With the addition of Eden Hazard into the squad, Vinicius Junior operates as the left wing substitute for the team and has come off the bench 14 times this season. There’s only been three games where he’s played a full 90 minutes.

However, this allows Vinicius to jump onto the pitch and have the opportunity to be a real game changer for the club, which he often proves to do. Beyond fresh legs, he brings hustle, creativity and determination onto the pitch which could do a lot of damage against a tired opposition.

Hazard has recently recovered from an injury and will slowly be returning the squad as a starter so wapping him out for the Brazilian would be the natural decision that would help Real if they’re in a bind.

Luka Modric

Real Madrid CF v RC Celta de Vigo - La Liga Photo by Alejandro/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Since the start of the 2019/20 season, the midfield magician has fluctuated between appearing in the starting XI or sitting on the bench. After 35 games, Modric has only started 16 games for Los Blancos, coming on as a substitute for 10.

Due to an impressive group of midfield talent and a somewhat declining career, 21-year old Fede Valverde is often taking the Croatian’s spot. This change was startling to some, yet, in a way it has made the team stronger.

The current dynamic between Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Valverde has quickly developed into a reliable midfield for the team. Bringing on Modric’s skill later on in a game helps the team maintain control of the game. In particular, his passing, technique on the ball and experience makes him one of the strongest substitutes for Zidane to depend on.