Real Madrid: Bale, Hazard injuries hand Vinicius and Rodrygo chance
Real Madrid face five games in 16 days and injuries to Hazard, James, Lucas and Bale will give Vinicius and Rodrygo the opportunity to shine.
Vinicius and Rodrygo have been handed the opportunity to present their credentials to Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane as injuries to Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale, James Rodríguez, Lucas Vázquez and Marco Asensio have cleared the path to the first team for the Brazilian teenagers.
Madrid face five games in 16 days before the winter break (Espanyol, Club Brugge, Valencia, Barcelona and Athletic) and Rodrygo and Vinicius will be handed a key role in overcoming that considerable obstacle to maintain Real’s position at the top of the table, second behind Barcelona but level on points with Ernesto Valverde’s side and just one ahead of Sevilla.
Injury problem have been coming thick and fast for Zidane, with Hazard ruled out until the new year, Bale once again suffering a recovery setback and James also failing to recover as quickly as hoped, while Vázquez is out with a fractured toe and Asensio is a long-term absentee with cruciate ligament damage and not expected back until March.
Rodrygo and Vinicius to the fore
That means that Vinicius and Rodrygo, who have experienced different trajectories this season, may get the opportunity to play together in the front line in the coming weeks. The former, who was forecast to establish himself in the starting XI this season, has fallen by the wayside and only started four games (Celta, Levante, Osasuna and Mallorca) and has not been named in the XI for two consecutive fixtures. In total, Vinicius has played just 26.2% of available minutes this season, a total of 448.
Rodrygo started off quietly but then found himself centre stage after scoring 95 seconds into his debut and then hitting a Champions League hat-trick but the 18-year-old still has only managed 468 minutes overall and hasn’t found the net in the league since October against Leganés.
Jovic, Brahim and Mariano may come in from the cold
As well as his two Brazilians, Zidane may look to some other fringe players during his pre-winter break of discontent. Luka Jovic has yet to find his feet at Madrid, scoring just once so far in 11 appearances with only three starts to his name. During this busy spell, Zidane will seek to hand Karim Benzema a necessary rest and will aim to do so before the Clásico on 18 December, meaning Jovic could start against Espanyol. More likely is that the Frenchman will rest his compatriot – along with several other first-team regulars - for the dead rubber Champions League match against Brugge next Wednesday.
Other beneficiaries of Zidane’s necessity could be Brahim Díaz and Mariano, who have dropped out of the reckoning entirely this season. The former has managed just 18 minutes for Madrid this season while the striker has been included in just one match day squad. The Brugge game could be the chance both are seeking to lace their boots with intent.