Real Madrid: A lost season for Ceballos, Mayoral, Llorente...
The young summer additions have struggled to make an impact, but are set to face Leganés today as Zinedine Zidane rests several key men.
At the beginning of the season, Real Madrid's sporting project was riding the crest of a wave. Real had won a LaLiga-Champions League double, not to mention the Spanish and European Super Cups - and the summer additions to the squad (Dani Ceballos, Borja Mayoral, Marcos Llorente...) were tipped to refresh and rejuvenate their successful first-team group. But as the curtain prepares to come down on 2017/18, several of these players have failed to live up to expectations.
With the Champions League now the only hope of major silverware for a side long since out of the title race, Zinedine Zidane is likely to give more game time to a number of them in the five LaLiga fixtures left this term. Indeed, a good few are expected to start against Leganés today, allowing the Frenchman to rest key players ahead of Tuesday's European semi-final second leg against Bayern.
Having shown his quality at Real Betis, Ceballos generated huge excitement among the fans when Real Madrid beat off the competition of a host of top European clubs to secure his signing. Since his arrival, however, the midfielder's lack of football - and repeated failure to even make Los Blancos' matchday squad - has been well-documented. In total, he has featured for 739 minutes across 20 appearances in all competitions. With just seven starts to his name (two in LaLiga and five in the Copa del Rey), he has been one of the least-used players in the squad.
Despite the displays of regular centre-forward Karim Benzema attracting a torrent of criticism this season, Mayoral has seriously struggled for game time since being brought back to the Bernabéu after a loan spell at VfL Wolfsburg: he has been given only 791 minutes in 21 matches, making eight starts thus far (one in the Champions League, two in LaLiga and five in the Copa). He has scored five goals - just four fewer than Benzema.
Added to Zidane's squad after an impressive loan stint at Eintracht Frankfurt, central defender Jesús Vallejo has spent much of an injury-hit season in the Real Madrid sickbay. Indeed, fitness issues have ruled him out of many more games - 19 - than he has played. The 21-year-old has appeared for 824 minutes across 10 matches, of which he has been in the starting line-up for nine.
Llorente returned to Real this season after an eye-catching year-long loan at Alavés, where he played 3,299 minutes in 38 games last term. Back in the Spanish capital, the defensive midfielder's first-team involvement has dropped significantly: 971 minutes across 18 appearances, including 10 starts (four in LaLiga and six in the Copa).
Right-back Achraf Hakimi has managed just over 1,000 minutes of action (1,135 in total), but was tellingly overlooked in Real Madrid's Champions League last-16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain. With Zidane's first choice on the right of defence, Dani Carvajal, out through suspension, the coach opted to draft in Nacho Fernández - who is hardly a specialist in the position - instead of Achraf. He has played 15 games overall, of which he has started 13.
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