Real Madrid round-up: Modric, James, Isco, Keylor, Kovacic
Luka Modric will miss Real Madrid's La Liga opener with suspension, leaving James and Isco to fight over a starting spot. Casilla will deputise for Keylor Navas. Kovacic linked with Milan.
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Modric suspended for season opener
Luka Modric will miss Real Madrid’s opening La Liga match against Real Sociedad on Saturday (20:15 CET) owing to a suspension he picked up in his side’s last game of the 2015-16 season against Deportivo La Coruña. The Croatian received a fifth yellow card of the campaign in the 2-0 win, ruling him out for one game. Zinedine Zidane will also have to do without four other regular starters this weekend, with Keylor Navas, Pepe, Benzema and Cristiano all missing through injury.
Isco or James to come in?
Much has been made over the futures of Isco and James this summer, but with Modric suspended on Saturday, both will be vying for the same starting spot (Casemiro and Kroos should make up two of a three man midfield in Zizou’s preferred 4-3-3 formation). Isco would seem to have the advantage at this point. Unlike James, he completed a full preseason and was also Zidane’s first choice to start against Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup.
Asensio or Vázquez?
The other dilemma for Zidane against Real Socieded will be who to pick in his three-man attacking trident. With the BBC dismantled thanks to the injuries to Cristiano and Benzema, only Gareth Bale remains from the ‘unmovable’ trio. That leaves two other spots available upfront, and with Morata certain to take Benzema’s place (despite suffering a bruised foot in training on Thursday) it’s a toss-up between Lucas Vázquez and Marco Asensio. Asensio looks in pole position after his wonderful preseason and fantastic performance and thunderous strike against Sevilla last week. What’s more, the youngster already knows what it’s like to be decisive in Anoeta. He played there against Real Sociedad for Espanyol last season, putting in one of his best performances during his spell on loan.
Keylor targeting 10 September return
After having surgery to fix the tendinitis in his left heel back on 9 June, Keylor Navas is still in a period of recuperation 71 days later. Real Madrid have said they won’t force the keeper’s return and have ruled him out until after the international break, meaning Navas will miss the club’s opening three league matches at least. As a result, Costa Rica will also have to do without their number one in their upcoming fixtures. While Navas will now focus on 10 September (Osasuna at the Bernabéu) as a target, for the time being, Real Madrid can count on Kiko Casilla, starting on Saturday against La Real.
Kovacic rumoured for Milan loan move
Finally, although there’s not long left in the summer transfer window now (it slams shut on 31 August), rumours continue to fly about departures from Real Madrid’s squad. This time it concerns Mateo Kovacic, who – according to Italian paper Corriere dell Sport – has been given permission by Florentino Perez to join AC Milan on loan. The newspaper reports that, with a good relationship existing between Perez and Adriano Galloani (Milan vice-president) and the fact that Zinedine Zidane already has an abundance of centre-midfielders to choose form, a deal could likely be done. Fellow Italian paper, La Gazzetta, are also linking Kovacic to Milan, but this time in the form of a transfer (but with an Álvaro Morata-style buy-back clause included).
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