A sharper Real Madrid take on a weaker Wolfsburg
Zidane will stick to his guns with Casemiro at the base of midfield while the Germans will be looking to extend their winning streak at home in the Champions League.
There was a time when Germany acted as Real Madrid’s version of Vietnam. In the space of five years Los Blancos managed to concede five goals on three separate occasions in the central European nation. However, this is a new era, Madrid have changed and so has the Bundesliga, with the exception of Bayern Munich. Today a far more equipped side readies itself in Wolfsburg, one that has clocked up three straight wins on German soil and is still humming from Saturday’s morale-boosting Clásico triumph. In addition to that, the team finally has a game plan, which revolves around Casemiro, an underestimated cog in the machine who has managed to fuse the different parts together. This year the Brazilian has played 74% of the Champions League games, a competition in which Madrid remains unbeaten, whereas he has only featured in 39% of the domestic league fixtures. The more he plays, the better the engine runs.
The 24-year-old holding midfielder and the breath of fresh air Zidane’s appointment brought to the dressing room has steadied Madrid. Another player deserving of praise is Keylor Navas, the accidental hero from Costa Rica, who has yet to concede goal in the competition. And of course there is also Cristiano Ronaldo, whose 13 goals in nine matches point to him setting yet another scoring record. The Portuguese’s tally is equal to that of the whole Wolfsburg squad.
Zizou has left well enough alone since taking charge. Danilo might replace Carvajal in the most hotly disputed position at the moment. It’s less likely however that James or Isco will be starting anywhere other than the bench. On the surface the Frenchman is full of praise for the Colombian and Spanish midfielders but is reluctant to play either (or both) for fear they might disrupt the newly found balance.
Wolfsburg, who finished runners up in the Bundesliga last season, have fallen victim to the Volkswagen emissions scandal. The side from the automobile-making city sold €107 million worth of players last summer and spent a mere €60 million to compensate for their departures. De Bruyne and Perisic made way as Draxler and Kruse (poor substitutes) came in.
The Wolves have gone three games without picking up a win and lie eighth in the league, despite having the division’s fourth most expensive squad. Standing in their favour is the fact they have won all four of their Champions League home games, but all the signs point to Dieter Hecking reinforcing his team’s midfield at the expense of his top two marksmen (nine goals): Kruse and Dost. Luiz Gustavo, Draxler and Schürrle will be tasked with stirring the Lower Saxony side.
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