P. P. San Martín

The decision that haunts Benítez

There are two ways of picking your starting line-up for el Clásico. One, gather your eleven most in form players or two, the eleven who sell the most shirts. Benítez opted for the second option to appease his president back in November. Madrid lost 0-4 and he received his marching orders shortly afterwards in January. I imagine him waking up in a cold sweat every night cursing himself for against his better judgment that day. Now it’s Zidane’s turn to pick the team and be honest with himself. Pride is not all that’s at stake at the Camp Nou, exacting revenge over Barca could give the team a moral boost that would catapult them to the latter stages of the Champions League. Madrid have to play well and go out to win.

The French coach has been carrying himself with an air of warm approval. He showed his frustration after the Las Palmas match and had no problem telling his squad: “Playing like that we’re going nowhere; I’m bothered and worried”. On the back of that game he went with a more sensible line-up to face Sevilla and Real Madrid immediately rediscovered their spark: “We can go very far”. The difference between the two starting line-ups was the work rate, the balance provided by Kroos, Casemiro and Modric in the centre of the park and the bravery Zidane demonstrated to pick those in the best physical and mental shape. His moral obligation ahead of the trip to the Camp Nou is clear. Make no concessions to the marketing department and choose the eleven strongest.