Real Madrid vs Granada Zidane facing team selection dilemmas
Granada have been the fairy-tale story of the LaLiga Santander season thus far, but they face their biggest test of the campaign when they travel to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, although Zinedine Zidane is expected to select Alphonse Areola and be forced into an emergency change at left-back with Marcelo joining the injured list.
Injuries have been a recurring problem for Los Blancos this term, and whilst the club’s domestic form has improved of late, the 2-2 draw against Club Brugge in the Spanish capital reminded everyone just how much work there was still to do on this team.
Zidane will feel like the absence of Marcelo is a further headache, with the Brazilian one of his most trusted players, and with Ferland Mendy also injured, it will be one of Alvaro Odriozola or Eder Militao who gets the nod at left-back.
Militao arrived in Portugal as a right-back, although was soon moved into a central position, so the work will come perhaps less alien to him as some may fear, but regardless it is another problem for the French coach to work through, alongside a misfiring record signing.
Eden Hazard has come in for criticism for his lack of pizzazz throughout his early appearances in Madrid, and whilst confidence remains that the goals will soon begin to flow, his lack of contributions has done little to ease the choppy waters at Valdebebas.
Thibaut Courtois‘ illness has been majorly overplayed within some sections of the media, even forcing Los Merengues to release a public statement that the Belgian isn’t suffering with an anxiety disorder, merely a bout of gastroenteritis.
Although, the former Atletico Madrid stopper’s absence will not bother Zidane too much, especially with Areola having impressed in his short time with the club so far, on the pitch at least.
“Areola is a great goalkeeper, as is Thibaut, it’s important we have two good goalkeepers who are ready to play,” Zidane detailed in his pre-match press conference.
“Everyone in the squad is important and everyone knows their role, they train properly and want to play.
“I then must make the final decision, but of course some players are going to play more than others, Areola has adapted very quickly.”
Areola‘s presence will be the great novelty amongst Zidane‘s likely starting XI against Granada, although he has quickly found his form in Spain.
The LaLiga Santander meeting with Granada will be his third appearance in just under a month, and this is far more than anyone expected when he arrived as part of the Keylor Navas deal.
His debut against Osasuna was a match for rotations and, albeit a surprise, we could see the Frenchman’s thinking in including him, whilst his half-time introduction against Club Brugge was surprising, but he played well.
The fans have received him very well indeed and enjoy his style, especially with the former PSG stopper yet to concede a single goal whilst donning the famous club shirt.
This run has totalled 135 minutes without conceding and he will be hoping that the defensive reshuffle at left-back won’t harm his chances of a third clean sheet.
As previously mentioned, the injuries to Marcelo, Mendy and also Nacho Fernandez have left Zidane with no natural options on the left of defence.
Militao appears the favourite at this moment, but it remains to be seen if he can succeed on the opposite flank to his natural side, furthermore he too is still finding his feet with the club.
Even without Marcelo‘s last-minute ailment, Los Blancos are almost down to the bare bones with injuries massively impacting their 2019/20 season so far.
The run of bad luck began in pre-season and it has followed the Spanish giants from there, starting with Hazard’s thigh, right through to Courtois’ stomach virus.
Marcelo‘s biceps femoris complaint is the 18th injury Zidane has been forced to contend with this term, and he hasn’t been able to hide his frustration at the turn of events whenever he’s been asked about it during press conferences.
There has been just two months of work since pre-season began and 13 players have suffered injuries, this is not a good sign for the rest of the season, although for a change Los Blancos will not have the Club World Championship to factor in during December, perhaps allowing them to rebuild some condition during the winter break.
For the moment, Zidane can only work with what he has, and sometimes this will require him to tweak his starting XI and make surprise decisions, just as we’re expecting he will when Granada arrive on Saturday afternoon.