Real Madrid: Zidane without Modric, Valverde for Levante

The Uruguay midfielder picked up an injury on international duty and with the Crotian also out, the Madrid boss has only Casemiro and Kroos available in midfield.

Fede Valverde no se entrena a un día del partido contra el Levante.
Tim Goode Getty Images

Real Madrid’s injury-hit start to the season is set to provide Zinedine Zidane with another headache when Levante visit the Bernabéu on Saturday lunchtime.

Luka Modric returned to Madrid from international duty with Croatia nursing a groin injury while Isco remains unavailable as he recovers from a hamstring injury. Now Zidane will have to contend with the loss of Fede Valverde, who has emerged this season as the fourth midfielder in the Frenchman’s 4-3-3 system, coming off the bench in the draw against Villarreal.

As things stand, Zidane will have just two fit senior central midfielders to play against Levante: Toni Kroos and Casemiro, who arrived back in Madrid on Friday morning after 10 days away with Brazil and an 11-hour flight from Los Angeles. The Brazilian will start against the Frogs – Zidane has little choice – but he will be far from 100 percent after covering 20,000km and playing twice in a week for the Canarinha.

James and Lucas Vázquez stop-gap solutions for Zidane

Zidane does have other options, but it remains to be seen which he employs. The industry and flexibility of Lucas Vázquez always make the winger a useful option – he has filled in at right back before – and James Rodríguez should be available after training this week following a soleus injury. Zidane will be eager not to rush the Colombian back into action after more than month out but Eden Hazard is ready to make his eagerly awaited Real Madrid debut and that could lead to a slight change of shape from the Frenchman.

If Vázquez or James start Zidane could opt for a 4-2-3-1 with Hazard behind Karim Benzema and one of the two midfielders drifting between the lines. If the Real manager sticks with his 4-3-3 then Vazquez is likely to be deployed in a fairly conservative role on the right. Brahim Díaz could also be called in to action in a deeper role than he is accustomed to. 

In any case, Levante will be far from cowed heading into the game, having beaten Madrid 2-1 in the Bernabeu last season and with the Frogs currently occupying fourth place in LaLiga after two wins from their opening three games.