REAL MADRID

Vázquez layoff poses Zidane headache over Isco and James

The injuries to Gareth Bale and Lucas Vazquez have left Real Madrid with a hole on the right-hand side of the pitch. Zidane now needs to decide on how best to fill it and who to please.

Vázquez layoff poses Zidane headache over Isco and James

The latest injury to Lucas Vazquéz (along with the long lay-off of Gareth Bale and the conversion of Cristiano Ronaldo into a centre forward) has left Zinedine Zidane with a dearth of natural wide men.

Isco, James and Asensio to battle for starting spot 

With the centre of the park more-or-less nailed on (when fit) by the midfield trio of Modric, Casemiro and Kroos, the vacant starting space usually occupied by Bale and then Vazquéz (before the Spaniard suffered a tear to his calf), will now be fought out by three players: Isco, James and Asensio.

Although the player most accustomed to playing out wide this season has been Marco Asensio, that has always been out on the left rather than the right side of the pitch, and besides, the 20-year old looks to be bottom of the attacking midfield pecking order.

A return of the 4-3-1-2?

Between James and Isco, the latter has been Zidane’s preferred option of the two, however like Asensio neither usually appears on the right, leading to the suggestion that the coach might be forced to swap from his preferred 4-3-3 formation to a 4-3-1-2.

Such a switch would suit Isco or James, allowing either one to slot in behind the two strikers: a role which both players feel most comfortable with. Isco in particular gave an exhibition in the Madrid derby when he took up this position, and also played there in the draw at Camp Nou. The Malagan, it seems, would have the advantage over the others in that respect.

Isco is favourite to take up the vacant starting spot

James and Isco futures hang in the balance

Zidane though will have to do things carefully. His greatest virtue has been his ability to connect with all of his players (both with those who feature in the side regularly and those who don’t), and in the case of James and Isco, what happens in this next month without Vázquez, without Bale, and without Kovacic (who’s also been ruled out for three weeks) could significantly impact their futures.

Speculation that James will leave the club is rife after comments at the Club World Club over his lack of playing time, and although it now looks like he’ll stay put during the January transfer window, it’s almost certain that the Colombian will be off in the summer.

Isco's situation is less dramatic. He had started discussions over a contract renewal, but he’s stalled talks until June in order to find out exactly what his place is in the team.