REAL MADRID

Time running out for Jovic

Zinedine Zidane did not use the Serbian striker against Real Sociedad in Sunday night's 0-0 draw at the Reale Arena, handing debuts to Marvin and Arribas instead.

Luka Jovic needs to play minutes at Real Madrid this season in order to get his career at Los Blancos off the ground after a disappointing opening season. Zidane knows it, the club knows it and the Serbian player knows it too. Despite the 0-0 scoreline and the away side finding it difficult to generate any real chances, Zidane decided to leave the 60 million euros 2019 summer signing from Eintracht Frankfurt on the bench.

Zidane didn't opt for the five allowed substitutions either, he brought on four, two of which were handed their Real Madrid debuts. Marvin and Arribas, two players who came through the ranks at Valdebebas and recent Youth League champions under the tutelage of legendary striker, now coach Raúl González Blanco. Borja Mayoral, currently linked with a move to several clubs, including Valencia and Lazio, was also left on the bench.

Zidane's explanation at a press conference as to why he did not consider the Serbian as an option demonstrates the problem Jovic faces: “I didn't want to change the dynamic of the game, it's complicated. If you put another forward on you change the whole picture and I didn't want to. We had to put players on the wings and we did that. Karim was playing well… ”.

The French tactician normally applies a 4-3-3 system or a 4-2-3-1 system, and very rarely considers having two number nines lead the line together. Even when he opts for a 4-4-2, he will do so by combining Benzema with another wide player, like Vinicius, Hazard, Rodrygo or Asensio. The Benzema-Jovic duo is not on Zidane's tactics board, and that takes away any hope Jovic has left of finding his way into the starting XI.

Faith in Benzema

Benzema has played 12,760 minutes under Zidane, the coach with whom the French striker has featured most, ahead of Mourinho (9,102) and Ancelotti (7,723). Only five footballers have had more minutes for the Marseille coach: Kroos, Ramos, Casemiro, Varane and Carvajal. Benzema is close to the top-5 and any analysis of Zidane's Madrid clearly shows he is ZZ's favourite striker. If Benzema has a rough patch, he will still be the central striker. Last season, Benzema played 3,981 minutes of the 4,620 minutes Madrid played, meaning he was present for 86% of gametime; the remaining 14% is where Jovic fits in, a very limited amount for a player trying to find confidence and score goals.

Benzema, in the form of his life last season, only missed 639 minutes throughout the whole campaign. Jovic saw just 806 minutes across the entire season, where he provided two assists and scored two goals.

Benzema leaves no room for Jovic

It is logical that Real Madrid are considering the option of loaning Jovic to a team in which he can be the starting striker and play a good number of minutes, score goals again and next summer, perhaps give Madrid the option of making a sale to continue balancing the books at the offices of the Santiago Bernabéu. If that happened, Mayoral would possibly get the nod to stay as Madrid's second striker, like in the 2017-18 season, with Mariano Díaz further down the pecking order.

Mayoral knows well what it is like to be a substitute for Benzema. During the 2017-18 campaign he barely enjoyed 927 minutes, despite the fact that he scored seven goals and set up three goals in that time; Benzema, throughout the season, only scored 12 goals and provided 11 more, in 3,237 minutes. The Frenchman participated in a goal every 140 minutes; Mayoral was involved in a goal every 93 minutes. More proof of the faith that Zidane has in Benzema and of how difficult Jovic has it, and could have it again at Real Madrid this season.