REAL MADRID

Zidane: "Any of my players can make a difference in attack"

Real Madrid's last eight goals have come from non-forwards. “Any of my players can make a difference in attack,” said Zidane after the Seville game.

Zidane has got goals coming from everywhere

Zinedine Zidane has made a virtue of necessity. The French coach is happy to take every goal that Karim Benzema gives his team, but he has also got the rest of his players digging deep to find the goals when the veteran centre forward has not been on point or has been injured, as has recently been the case.

In fact, Madrid’s last eight goals have come from non-forwards: in the 3-0 win against Getafe (Varane brace and Modric); in the 3-1 Supercup semi-final rout of Valencia (Kroos, Isco and Modric); while the latest two goals against Seville (2-1) on Saturday came from “Casemiro Nazario de Lima”, as Álvaro Benito tweeted.

Madrid have won titles in the last five years while ignoring the ‘short blanket theory’ of San Lorenzo, the Argentine coach of the 1960s who famously said that "if you cover your head, you uncover your feet; and if you cover your feet, you uncover your head”.

From a Madrid side that won the Champions League attacking hard but without caring too much about what happened at the back, to this newly remodelled outfit under Zidane, where it is better to first protect Courtois and from there see who can manage to scratch out a goal in the opposite area.

And that happened again against Sevilla. Without Benzema, neither Jovic nor Rodrygo nor Lucas Vázquez – the goal-scoring specialists, in theory – had much of an impact offensively and couldn’t conjure up a shot between the three of them.

Casemiro celebrates after his first goal against Sevilla.

The solution was in Casemiro

The game offered another example of Zidane’s tactical astuteness. Casemiro's brace was not a coincidence. Zizou ordered Kroos and Modric to drop back to cover the Brazilian defensive midfielder’s area, while he took Sevilla’s somewhat inflexible midfielder Gudelj by surprise by pushing forward and playing as a false nine.

And like that, Casemiro first scored with his right, then with his head and was close to a perfect hat-trick with a left-footed effort some minutes later.

“Any of my players can make a difference in attack,” said Zidane after the game – and the numbers can confirm that.

Of the 53 Madrid goals this season, the forwards – Benzema, Rodrygo, Bale, Vinicius, Jovic, Hazard and Lucas – have scored 29. The other 24 have come unexpected sources, such as Modric (who, with five goals, has already surpassed a season record), Kroos (with four goals, one of his best records) and Varane (also close to his best record with three), among others.