REAL MADRID

Without Hazard, it's the 'Double B' for Zidane's Real Madrid

Los Blancos have had to endure the likes of the Belgian in the attacking line, so the coach has returned his faith to those still remaining from the BBC.

Without Hazard, it's the 'Double B' for Zidane's Real Madrid
JAVIER GANDUL

Cristiano Ronaldo's departure from Real Madrid brought to an end the famed BBC, the striking trident composed of the Portuguese star, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. For a long time these three players were non-negotiable starters for Los Blancos, and proved crucial members of the triple back-to-back Champions Leagues. Last season, and the overt discussions taking place throughout this summer's transfer window, suggested that the Frenchman would be the only survivor of this set-up, however, signs are that Zinedine Zidane is content to put his faith in the Welsh forward too, as he awaits the return of Eden Hazard.

Zidane's 'Double B'

In the opening games this campaign, Zidane has relied on his ‘Double B’ to lead the attack, the only forwards who have started both. His reward has been two goals from Benzema and an assist from Bale.

Last season, the first campaign without Cristiano, the two players scored 44 goals between them (42% of Madrid's total), 30 coming from Benzema (28%), and 14 from Bale, who never really got going across the season.

Karim Benzema of Real Madrid.

Karim Benzema of Real Madrid.

The pair have become known as strong starters in LaLiga. In six of the last seven seasons one of them has scored Madrid's first goal in the competition. Last year was the exception, when full back Dani Carvajal did the business while the others were split: 2013-14, 2014-15 and this campaign, by Benzema, and Bale scoring first in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Vinicius in line to show worth

The loss of Hazard from the early squad options (as well as Luka Jovic returning from injury) appears to have left the experienced Benzema and Bale as unquestionable choices for Zidane. The Frenchman, though, has had a harder time finding the perfect companion for them in a front three. Against Celta Vigo it was Vinicius who started, and for Valladolid it was Isco who was given the opportunity to link up.

With the Spaniard out of contention injured, the young Brazilian could get his chance to make up for a weak showing in the second half against Valladolid. This will also be on his favoured left side, one that he may struggle to get once Hazard returns. An alternative that Zidane may plump for is Lucas Vázquez, a player he has put faith in before, although his inclusion would then push Bale out to the right making it an interesting choice.

Jovic waiting to explode.

Jovic waiting to explode.

Jovic is another option. After splashing the cash on a player tearing up the Bundesliga and Europa League, Zidane will hope to get him firing soon in his new shirt. He played the final 20 minutes at the Bernabéu last time out, and may see more pitch time on Sunday, possibly even from the start, especially if the coach is looking to potentially accomodate a change of structure.

With Barcelona dropping more points this weekend, drawing against newly-promoted Osasuna, Zidane will be desperate to get all his decisions right to build a small amount of breathing room with Madrid's main rivals ahead of the international break. When the team returns, it may very well have a very different look, and whether the Double B remains will be one of the biggest questions.