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Five things for Zidane to ponder ahead of Osasuna game

The ‘FIFA Virus’ and the return of Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema poses the first set of conundrums for the Madrid coach: the BBC, Pepe and Varane…

Five things for Zidane to ponder ahead of Osasuna game
PEPE ANDRES DIARIO AS

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane spoke before the Real Sociedad game about the difficulties he was having in choosing his starting line-up: “Every time I have to choose the eleven it gives me a headache”. These quandaries will be further compounded by the return of different key players from injury.

1. Cristiano to start, but how much will he play?

After recovering from the ligament damage he suffered in his left knee during the Euro 2016 final, the debate rages on over how much game-time Cristiano Ronaldo will get, to begin with at least – Cristiano is a nailed-on starter, but Zidane will have to decide how to slot the number 7 back into the side. Discussions between player and coach have been ongoing to discuss the start of the season, and also to ensure Ronaldo doesn’t rush things in order to peak at the business end of the season. Cristiano is set to start against Los Rojillos but is unlikely to last the 90 minutes.

2. Benzema or Morata?

The French striker appears to be returning to full fitness and has joined up with the squad for Saturday’s game. Morata, meanwhile, rejoins Los Blancos on the back of scoring a brace for Spain, albeit against a brittle Liechtenstein side. This means Zizou has his two number 9s available, although he seems to be swaying marginally towards Morata and Benzema might have to wait for his chance in the second half.

3. Ramos’s defensive partner

Both Pepe and Varane have been away on international duty and Zidane has to put his thinking cap on before deciding who will partner Ramos, a sure starter, in defence. Varane has played all three official matches so far, although this weekend’s game against Osasuna will be the first with Pepe available. Last season the nod was given to the Portuguese centre-back, who is yet to renew his contract, which runs until 2017.

4. The South American contingent

James, Casemiro and Marcelo came face to face as Brazil took on Colombia. As per usual on international weeks, all three have been the last to arrive back for duty (James returns on Thursday, while the Brazilians reported for duty on Wednesday evening). Casemiro and Marcelo have both returned unscathed and are likely to make the starting line-up against Osasuna. James’s situation is not quite as straightforward, particularly as he is yet to secure a starting berth this season.

5. Rotations at right-back.

Madrid traditionally struggle after international breaks, which is why Zidane is considering making a number of changes to his starting eleven. One of those could be at right-back, and with the French trainer keen to keep things fresh with one eye on the seven games in 23 days looming, Danilo (not called up by Brazil) could get the nod over Carvajal, who played 85 minutes for Spain against Belgium.