Zidane takes Odegaard to Orriols

With a scarcity of attacking midfielders to choose from -- and I hope the irony of that isn’t lost on you -- Zidane has included Odegaard in his squad to face Levante. The Norwegian, who was touted as the next big thing when he joined the club a year ago, has yet to get off the mark for Castilla. Also making the trip to Valencia are Isco and James who, irrespective of being in the doghouse, travel with the rest of the team to square off against the league’s bottom side as Real Madrid valiantly go about defending third place against a hot-in-pursuit Villarreal. In other words, three attacking midfielders are available, two of whom – Isco and James – are being dragged through the mud by their own fans, while the other, Odegaard, hasn’t done enough to justify his inclusion.

One player who won’t be featuring tonight is Benzema, as an umpteenth muscle injury keeps him sidelined. Cristiano did a poor job of explaining himself and the fall-back from his comments has served as adequate punishment. As far as I can make out he was trying to address the frequency with which Madrid are picking up minor injuries. He didn't express himself clearly enough and his underhanded attempt to raise the alarm blew up in his face. However, the issue he was unsuccessfully trying to address does exist: players take a long time to recover from injuries at Madrid and Cristiano, who never misses games, feels that the whole team turn to him to score goals and the pressure gets to him when he fails to do so. That constant pressure to hit the onion bag isn’t something that keeps the medical staff up at night. The burden he bears is of another planet.

Zidane hasn’t complained about the congested recover table either. The Frenchman is crossing his fingers, praying things go to plan in the Champions League and giving Odegaard a shot to keep his boss sweet. As long as Isco and James are named in the squad, who can criticise him for his decision? When Florentino got rid of Benítez and made Zidane the first team manager my friend David Gistau compared his behaviour to that of someone using a child as a human shield in the middle of the shootout. Zidane is the child in this scenario and in the face of the mounting injury crisis he has enlisted Odegaard, a player, brought in by Florentino, who (for now) is a stand-in ‘only to be used in the case of emergencies’ attacking midfield option. I wish all three of them luck.