Real Madrid defence: Zidane's options for Sevilla LaLiga clash
With Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Casemiro, Raphael Varane out and Jesús Vallejo not at 100%, Zinedine Zidane has selection issues in defence.
Raphael Varane's injury in Wednesday's Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund has deepened Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane's defensive headache ahead of this weekend's LaLiga clash with Sevilla, with Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos and Casemiro all suspended, and Jesús Vallejo being nursed back to fitness.
As things stand, the only defenders definitely available to start at the Bernabéu on Saturday are full-backs Achraf Hakimi, Marcelo and Theo Hernández, and the versatile Nacho Fernández.
Here are five ways the defence could line up against Sevilla:
Back four of Achraf, Nacho, a Castilla player and Marcelo
This would be much the same backline that faced Fuenlabrada in the Copa del Rey ten days ago. Castilla's Álvaro Tejero, who has played four games for Los Blancos' first team - two as a central defender and two as a full-back - started in the middle against 'Fuenla', but is suspended after picking up a fifth booking of the season while in action for Real Madrid's reserves last Saturday. However, Zidane could opt to promote one of Tejero's Castilla colleagues, such as Javier Sánchez or Manu Hernando.
Back four of Achraf, Nacho, Llorente and Marcelo
The possibility of holding midfielder Marcos Llorente dropping back into the heart of the defence is one that Zidane himself was not ruling out in his post-Dortmund press conference, explaining: "He [Llorente] knows the position; he's already played there on the odd occasion for Castilla. We'll see." If Llorente is drafted into defence, Real Madrid's coach will have to find an alternative replacement for Casemiro, with Mateo Kovacic also able to fill in at anchorman.
Back three of Achraf, Nacho and Marcelo
With the options that he has at his disposal, Zidane could choose to field a back three, a system that would allow him to play two holding midfielders - Llorente and Kovacic - to help out with defensive duties.
Achraf (or Theo) next to Nacho, Lucas Vázquez at right-back
Between the injury to Varane and the introduction of Llorente, Lucas Vázquez played at right-back against Dortmund, as part of a back four with Nacho, Ramos and Marcelo. When Llorente came on, Zidane returned Vázquez to the wing and moved Nacho to the right side of defence, with Casemiro dropping to centre-back. Were Vázquez to be used at right-back, Achraf could be used in the middle of defence alongside Nacho. Theo, who like Achraf has no experience in the position, could also partner Real's all-purpose defender.
Vallejo in a back four with Achraf, Nacho and Marcelo - if he can
Vallejo may be able to start against Sevilla, with Zidane revealing on Friday that the former Real Zaragoza man is now fit enough to be included in the squad. Were he to line up for the week 15 clash with the Andalusians, he would ease his coach's selection crisis considerably, as he would enable the Frenchman to pick a back four in which every member would be in his natural position.
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