Real Madrid: Asensio hands Zidane an alternative to Benzema
Luka Jovic's injury and Zidane's lack of confidence in Mariano could lead the Frenchman to use the winger as a stand-in striker for Karim Benzema.
Marco Asensio's return from injury has handed Zinedine Zidane an unexpected alternative option to Karim Benzema in Real Madrid's front line. Luka Jovic's injury and the Frenchman's lack of confidence in Mariano has made the long-serving number nine indispensable but given a lack of match fitness due to LaLiga's coronavirus hiatus and a demanding fixture list as Spain seeks to complete the 2019-20 season before August, the availability of the 24-year-old could prove vital to Real Madrid's run-in.
Under Zidane in the 2016-17 campaign Asensio was the sixth highest scorer in the side with 10 strikes despite being the 17th most-used player in the squad. The following year, the Spain international was behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Benzema with 11 goals to his name, leading Zidane to view Asensio as a viable option in the role of a false nine. He has only played 45 minutes in that position, under Julen Lopetegui during pre-season in 2018-19 but the return was eye-catching as Asensio bagged a brace against Juventus, Lopetegui also used Asensio as a false nine in Spain's crushing 3-0 defeat of Italy at the Bernabéu.
Luis Enrique followed suit in September 2018, deploying Asensio as a secondary striker in the 6-1 destruction of Croatia. Playing off Rodrigo, the Madrid man chipped in with a goal and three assists.
Zidane not keen on Mariano, Jovic
Zidane has little faith in Mariano, who has seen just 65 minutes of action this season, and has similar concerns over Jovic, who has found the net just twice since his €60m move from Eintracht Frankfurt last summer. Asensio's flexibility hands Zidane plenty of options as Real Madrid seek to end the season on a high note. He is equally comfortable coming in off the right flank in a 4-3-3 as he is playing behind a striker or acting as a false nine himself. He can also adapt to a role alongside Benzema or Eden Hazard in a 4-4-2.