Real Madrid: Zidane's multiple midfield combinations

Real Madrid midfielders Casemiro, Kroos, Modric and Valverde have only played 238 minutes together - 182 of them alongside Isco.

Fede Valverde, Luka Modric, Casemiro y Toni Kroos.
D. S. Bustamante / J. Corchero /. J. Á. Orihuela / J. Á. O. Getty / AS / AS / AS

Having a midfield like Real Madrid's is one of those problems that any coach would like to have - an ample choice of quality to select from for every situation; the only downside is who to leave out. Fede Valverde's rise to prominence has made Zidane rethink his standard midfield set-up of Modric-Casemiro-Kroos which helped the team deliver three Champions League crowns.

Casemiro and Kroos are two undiputed first choices for the French coach in the centre of the park. The Brazilian, who has completed 2,760 minutes of playing time so far this season has been used more than any other member of the squad while Kroos who has totalled 2,453 minutes who is the seventh most used player. The eighth is Valverde, with 1,872 minutes just ahead of Luka Modric in ninth with 1,650. That said, all four have rarely coincided on the pitch, playing together for a total of just 238 minutes (Valverde's sending off in the Super Cup final deprived them of another four minutes); For 182 of the minutes that the above four midfielders have been together on the pitch, they have been accompanied by Isco - notably in the Super Cup semi-final against Valencia.

Real Madrid squad total playing time: 2019-2020

Player Min. Player Min.
Casemiro 2.760 Isco 1.067
Ramos 2.678 Hazard 1.055
Carvajal 2.640 Rodrygo 1.009
Varane 2.640 Militao 902
Benzema 2.596 Jovic 765
Courtois 2.505 Lucas V. 706
Kroos 2.453 Areola 675
Valverde 1.872 James 650
Modric 1.650 Nacho 640
Mendy 1.518 Odriozola 434
Marcelo 1.257 Brahim 170
Bale 1.145 Mariano 44
Vinicius 1.086

Source: Opta.

Five-man midfield against Atlético

The formula was repeated in the final. Against Atlético, Zidane fielded Casemiro-Kroos-Isco-Valverde with Isco just playing in front. That line-up lasted until Rodrygo entered on the hour and Valverde's subsequent dismissal. The five-man midfield was employed against Atlético in LaLiga, but this time, Zidane made changes at half-time, taking Isco and Kroos off (for Vinicius and Lucas Vázquez).

On the whole however, Zidane tends to use a three-man midfield: Valverde-Casemiro-Kroos. They've played together for a total of 739 minutes (plus the 238 minutes as part of the four-man variation) and started 10 games together. The classic Modric-Casemiro-Kroos is now Zidane's Plan B: totalling 636 minutes and seven games in the starting XI. The Modric-Casemiro-Valverde combination has been used in three games, totalling 413 minutes together - most recently, against Osasuna in Pamplona.

The combinations used by Zidane in midfield, with and without Isco

Players Min.
Valverde-Casemiro-Kroos 739
Modric-Casemiro-Kroos 636
Modric-Casemiro-Valverde 413
James-Casemiro-Modric 283
Valverde-Modric-Casemiro-Kroos 238
Modric-Valverde-Kroos 233

Source: AS, Wyscout, Opta and Transfermarkt.

The fourth option open to Zidane is a midfield comprising James, Casemiro and Kroos which was emplyed earlier in the season against Valladolid when Modric was injured. They have played together for a toal of 283 minutes in four games - up until Valverde's explosion into the side and the start of James' ongoing fitness problems.