Real Madrid-Bayern: Zidane's selection clues against Leganés
Zinedine Zidane held back several apparent Champions League starters, and his use of Marco Asensio and Mateo Kovacic was instructive.
"It's our biggest game of the season." That's Zinedine Zidane's verdict on Real Madrid's Champions League semi-final second leg against Bayern Munich.
Given the importance of the clash, which could bring Real a third successive appearance in the final of Europe's top club competition, Los Blancos' LaLiga win at home to Leganés saw the coach show little hesitation in keeping back a number of players who look set to start at the Bernabéu on Tuesday.
Here are the clues that Zidane offered up as to his team selection against Bayern:
Bale and Benzema set for the bench
Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, two-thirds of the once untouchable 'bbC', have slipped down the pecking order in recent times, and were both in the line-up against Leganés. Bale played the full 90, all but ruling out the possibility of him starting against Bayern, while Benzema was taken off for Marco Asensio after 61 minutes - a half-hour rest that suggests he'll be among the first-choice substitutes.
Keylor, Marcelo, Lucas, Ramos, Varane, Modric, Cristiano to start
None of Keylor Navas, Marcelo, Lucas Vázquez, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Luka Modric or Cristiano Ronaldo were involved against Leganés. Each of this key septet will be in the XI, as will Toni Kroos, who was given 30 minutes.
Lucas for Carvajal at right-back
Of particular note is the fact that Vázquez, a player Zidane always turns to, was unused; with Dani Carvajal out injured, the versatile winger could well deputise for Real Madrid's regular right-back.
Asensio in the frame for starting spot
Meanwhile, Asensio's 30-minute cameo off the bench - allied with Isco's unavailability due to a shoulder injury suffered in Munich - bore all the hallmarks of Zidane preparing the former Real Mallorca man for a place in his side on Tuesday.
Kovacic in line to partner Casemiro in midfield
Isco's absence, coupled with Zidane's probable use of Vázquez at full-back, opens up a spot in midfield - and the signs are that Mateo Kovacic will come in. The Croat started against Leganés, but was withdrawn on the hour mark. He appears set to partner Casemiro in the engine room.
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