Injuries threaten to derail Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid title hopes

At what we may consider the middle point of the season, a shocking 19 of 24 Real Madrid players have already had to miss matches due to injuries. Since the start of 2017 — a little over three weeks ago — Pepe, James Rodriguez, Daniel Carvajal, Luka Modric and Marcelo have suffered different knocks or a variety of muscular issues, which adds to the absence of the team’s most unique offensive weapon, Gareth Bale, out since November.

The Madrid media keep discussing the reasons behind this new injury plague: indeed, some of those injuries are due to hits, rather than muscular problems. Some journalists prefer to talk about the mental stress of the 40-game unbeaten streak. Others mention the fact that, if you field injury-prone players such as Modric and Marcelo every three days for a full 90 minutes, chances are that they will pick up another injury.

Whatever thereasons, so far the deep squad that Zinedine Zidane possesses has been able to cope with this situation quite satisfactorily. For instance, this season the inspirational — and in previous years irreplaceable — Modric has missed 12 matches due to injury, and the different midfield combinations that Zidane employed to cover for him won eight of those matches and drew four. Indeed, Casemiro and Toni Kroos can use the help of Isco Alarcon, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez et al. and put together a competitive line.

index

however, the most recent surge in injuries has hit hard the most sensitive part in Real Madrid’s line-up: both starting full-backs. Together with the defensive midfield position — only occupied by Casemiro as a natural — the left and right full-backs have no optimal replacement, but a series of combinations that aren’t exactly ideal.

On the left, Marcelo’s replacement is obviously Fabio Coentrao. Despite the overly optimistic assessment by certain pundits at the beginning of the season, it seems like the Fabio of old has departed for good. His rare participation so far have only generated jokes among Real Madrid supporters. On top of that, he’s also fallen victim of the injury plague and, in his case, the club seem reluctant to disclose what’s wrong with him or when he’ll be ready.

Nacho Fernandez on the left, where he’s played quite often over two seasons. While Nacho is a solid defender, he lacks speed, and could suffer against fast opponents, like in the case of Celta’s Iago Aspas in Wednesday’s do-or-die Copa del Rey match, or Real Sociedad’s Carlos Vela in next Sunday’s key La Liga fixture.

On the right, things are even more complicated. Carvajal was probably Real Madrid’s most in-shape player when he picked up his latest injury. He had become a real factor in attack and defence, overwhelming opposing defenders and standing his ground against most wingers.

To say that the Santiago Bernabeu has an issue with his obvious replacement Danilo is an understatement. It’s terrible when the Bernabeu decides to pick on a player, and a great deal of character is required to change that perception. In the case of the young Danilo, he looks out of his depth too often to believe that he can turn this situation around.

Besides the serviceable Nacho, who obviously can’t cover for both full-backs at the same time, Zidane has used Vazquez as an alternative. While this may work for a few minutes in a specific match, the young Galician’s natural habitat is in the final third, and he tends to leave his flank unprotected way too often. Again, obviously not an ideal option when Madrid’s next few matches include fast players that thrive on exploiting space.

Zidane’s squad is indeed deep, but more so in from midfield forward, and much less towards the back. Instead of a straight up substitution, the French manager might try a three-man centre of the defence and two long full-backs, using Vazquez and Asensio on the flanks, for instance.

However, all these options are extremely far from being perfect, and will demand that Real Madrid exert control over the ball possession and reduce the opponents’ time on the ball and space at the back as much as possible.

In Carlo Ancelotti’s last season as Real Madrid coach, January and February killed the team’s hopes in La Liga and saw them eliminated in the Copa del Rey due to, again, an injury plague. Even though Ancelotti failed to rotate his squad as much as Zidane has done this season, the situation at this point is very similar, especially at the back.

If Zidane can find solid alternatives to survive during the next month or so, the comeback of both full-backs and Gareth Bale at the end of February should inject new life in a team that indeed needs so.

Otherwise, the squad runs the risk of repeating history and find themselves in March having to focus on the Champions League, when a treble seemed to be in the cards in December.

Is James Rodriguez Moving to the Premier League?

25-year-old James Rodriguez really made a name for himself at the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil after dominating proceedings for his national side Colombia. Six goals in Colombia’s progression to the quarter finals was enough to secure Rodriguez the coveted Golden Boot and also a place in Fifa’s all-star World Cup team.

The performances earned the attacking midfielder a dream move to Real Madrid in 2014 for a hair-raising €80 Million from Monaco. 61 games and 21 goals have since followed for Rodriguez at Real (not a bad return) but a couple of years blighted by injury and often left on the bench have led to rumours that the Colombian could be on his way to the Premier League.

Image result for 1080p james rodriguez

It’s fair to say his Real Madrid side are flying in the Primera Division this season; Los Galacticos are currently 4/9 to be crowned champions of Spain’s top tier according to the bet365 La Liga betting. And with Rodriguez seemingly surplus to requirements in Zidane’s set-up, the midfielder may have to look for pastures new should he want first-team football.

At 25, Rodriguez is coming into to his prime but and would be a star acquisition for any Premier League side. But where would he go?

Chelsea

It appears inevitable that Oscar will make his £52 million move to Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG in January and with the rumour that Cesc Fabregas could be set to join him in the summer, all of a sudden Chelsea’s midfield options are starting to look a little weak.

Rodriguez’s strengths are as an attacking midfielder or winger and could provide solid foil for Diego Costa up front cutting in from the wing or providing those killer passes.

At the end of the summer transfer window, there were reports that Chelsea were about to make a move for Rodriguez but for whatever reason the move failed to materialise. That said, it would be no surprise if Conte were to renew his interest in the Colombian either in January or in the summer and a move to West London appears to be the most likely destination.

Arsenal

Similar to Chelsea, Arsenal were heavily linked to Rodriguez in the summer and may be forced into a move for the 25-year-old if they cannot sort out the current contract fiasco with Alexis Sanchez.

Reportedly, Arsenal have offered Sanchez a £9.3 million a year contract to stay with the Gunners but apparently that is still a long way off his valuation of himself.

If Sanchez were to leave Arsenal then Rodriguez would be an ideal like-for-like replacement. A great attacking winger and two years younger than Sanchez, he would go some way to appease the Arsenal fans annoyance if one of their star players were to leave.

The trouble is wages, not whether Arsenal could afford them, but whether they will pay them. Arsenal have a strict policy and you feel Rodriguez would come no cheaper than Sanchez.

Manchester United

Once again in the summer a club were reported to have bid £71 million for the Colombian’s services, this was believed to be Manchester United after the Red Devils chairman met with Real Madrid representatives to try and thrash out a deal.

It came to nothing and the trail appears to have gone cold, making Manchester United seemly out of the picture.

It appears Chelsea are the front-running side to snap up Rodriguez if the Premier League is his next destination. Six points clear at the top of the Premier League Chelsea can pay the wages, transfer fee and seemly likely offer him the chance to play for the Champions.

So thank you guys,

Hope you liked the article.

For more do like…