Real Madrid: Zidane's options to replace injury-hit Eden Hazard
With the Belgian forward unavailable for Saturday's LaLiga opener against Celta, Zidane must find an emergency replacement. Vinicius could be given his chance.
Alarm bells sounded following this morning's training in Valdebebas after it emerged that Eden Hazard had suffered an injury to his left thigh muscle and early indications suggest he will be sidelined for the next three to four weeks. It's an unexpected setback for Zidane, who was expecting Hazard to start tomorrow's league opener away at Celta.
Zidane could be without Hazard for the team's following games against Valladolid and Villarreal and until the Belgian forward is fit to return, he will need to find alternatives in the frontline - Bale, Jovic, Vinicius, Lucas Vázquez or even James could be drafted in to fill the vacany left by Hazard out on the left side of attack.
The same set-up with Vinicius
The simplest option open to Zidane is to replace Hazard directly for another player and not change the team formation. The coach isn't a huge fan of Vinicius but positionally, he is the ideal fit as Hazard's replacement. In Vigo, we were expected to see Isco playing just in front of a three-man midfield (Casemiro-Kroos-Modric) and Hazard in a free-roaming role starting from the left; Benzema would act as a centre-forward but with freedon to drift to the right wing. If Zizou decides to play Vinicius, it will be the chance of a lifetime for the player to win over the coach. This would also be the least traumatic solution in terms of the team's structure.
Switch to a 4-4-2
Another option would be to revert to a classic 4-4-2. Vinicius would also fit into this model, occupying the left wing with and Jovic pairing up with Benzema in attack. It would however, mean sacrificing either Kroos or Isco, as Modric and Casemiro are central to the team for the coach. Alternatively, Jovic could make way for Isco to take on deep-lying role, which would allow Kroos to keep his place in the XI, pushing Modric over to the right. The other option would be to bring in Lucas Vázquez to fill the right wing in a four-man midfield although he has tended to be reserved for the latter part of the team's games.
4-3-1-2, with Jovic
In this formation, Benzema and Jovic would be the front two with Isco playing in a free role behind them - his favourite position. The injury Jovic suffered during the pre-season impeded Zidane from experimenting more with this set-up. It's not the best solution as the team could easily become unbalanced when the full-backs push forward, leaving the midfield congested and vulnerable on both flanks.
Zidane played three at the back during Madrid last few games of the pre-season to mixed reviews. It would oblige Marcelo and Odriozola (or Carvajal when is available again) to undertake more attacking roles. It would leave room for Isco and give Militão a chance to slot into the back three alongside Ramos and Varane..
Jovic or James could be deployed in place of Isco although it seems unlikely Zidane will fall back on that idea.
Bonus ball: Bale and James...
Hazard's absence presents a huge opportunity for Gareth Bale and James. Zidane mentioned in today's press conference that the Colombian is looking impressive in training: "James is in good form and I'm happy with him". Both Bale and James could fill Hazard's vacant place on the left with no problems at all. For Bale, it is his preferred position - one he has comfortably slotted into in the past but not so often as the left wing was exclusively reserved for Cristiano in previous seasons. The left wing was his during his time at Spurs.
Like with Vinicius, Bale would be a like-for-like switch. With the Welshman, Madrid would gain speed on the break, extra firepower, aerial strength and expertise from set-pieces - but would all of that be enough to convince Zidane?
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