Something rather extraordinary happened in Real Madrid's win at Leganés in midweek: Zinedine Zidane brought on Dani Ceballos with less than a minute to play. Less than half a minute, in truth. Ceballos didn't even touch the ball, and it all felt a bit like a humiliation. But Zidane is too decent a guy for that. In his first press conference since Wednesday, he revealed that he has apologised to the midfielder. Coming out and explaining that he has said sorry makes it a double apology; once in private, once in public. It's clear that it was an honest mistake. Zidane probably just wanted to give him a short run-out to let him know he hadn't forgotten about him, only for said run-out to accidentally end up being a little too short.
Zidane can cap his apology perfectly by starting Ceballos today
With Luka Modric out injured, a start for Ceballos against Alavés today would round off that apology nicely. During a first half of the season that saw Real steadily drop out of title contention, it seemed to me that certain players should have been brought into the side more often, to offset the visible dip in form suffered by some of Zidane's nailed-on starters. Or simply to keep those regulars on their toes by showing what they've got. Albeit a bit late, we've seen the effect that can have: Real have regained competitive energy and credibility since Lucas Vázquez and Marco Asensio have come in more frequently and made a mockery of the obsession with the 'bbC', that golden calf that has so often led the club astray.
Alavés have staged a superb turnaround under Abelardo
Given that both Modric and Toni Kroos are unavailable, hopefully there'll be a place in the line-up for Ceballos, a fine footballer who performed so splendidly in the reverse fixture. He conducted the play with aplomb in Vitoria, and scored twice. A whole half season has gone by since then. In that time, Alavés have staged a fantastic fightback, winning 22 of a possible 33 points under Abelardo. Ceballos, however, has had to endure week after week of bench-warming, topped off by that unfortunate incident at Butarque. Now, at least, we know it was unintentional. Zidane must have thought there was longer left. This afternoon, he has the opportunity to throw Ceballos on from the start. I'd like that.