Real Madrid’s Copa del Rey exit in the Quarterfinals against Real Sociedad was a tough pill to swallow, as coach Zinedine Zidane admitted during the post-match press conference. Los Blancos scored three goals and that should’ve been more than enough to clinch their presence in the Semifinals, but the defensive line —and Areola— fumbled the whole game and conceded four goals in just 69 minutes.
Nacho and Marcelo in particular completed a woeful performance. While it’s true that they both managed to score, Real Madrid’s defensive struggles came mainly through their flanks. Zidane decided to rest both Carvajal and Mendy —who have become undisputed starters lately— and that decision ended up costing his team. Los Blancos might simply not have a reliable backup for their two starting fullbacks and they will be in trouble if either Carvajal or Mendy lose a game to injury or suspension.
Madrid ended up sending Odriozola on loan to Bayern Munich this winter and now Zidane and the rest of the coaching staff will be keeping their fingers crossed so that Carvajal is available for the rest of the season, no matter how poor Odriozola was when given the chance.
In fact, Zidane should consider Militao as the main backup for Carvajal when both Ramos and Varane are available. Nacho has proven to be a huge liability on the right flank and he now lacks the speed needed to keep up with most wingers.
On the other hand, Marcelo has never been a disciplined defender, but Casemiro and Ramos’ defensive abilities made up for his lack of positioning and awareness. Casemiro wasn’t on the pitch yesterday and Marcelo’s left side of Real’s defensive line was basically a highway for Real Sociedad.
Ferland Mendy has been brilliant this season although most fans and analysts still want him to produce offensively. He’s just not that kind of player but Madrid have found their way to good results through defensive stability, which requires Mendy to be on the pitch.
Make no mistake: The whole team with the exception of Vinicius Jr deserves the blame for this loss. However, it’s now obvious that Real Madrid’s starting fullbacks Carvajal and Mendy are the two players who don’t have a reliable replacement in the current squad.
The situation will change as soon as Achraf Hakimi returns to the squad. He’s not a defensive-minded player but his versatility and speed will allow him to play in both wings when needed, so Real Madrid will surely try their best to find Achraf the minutes he wants so that they can keep him.