Real Madrid: The strongest XI Zinedine Zidane must deploy
Real Madrid set to resume their LaLiga campaign against Eibar, here’s a look at the strongest possible starting line-up for the remaining 11 fixtures.
Real Madrid will lock horns with 16th-placed Eibar, one of the ‘eleven finals’ that the Real Madrid players have been talking about. Every game from here on is very, very crucial to Los Blancos’ chances of winning their 34th league title.
Owing to fixture congestion and Zidane’s rotation policy, the same starting XI will not be fielded by the French tactician in every game. However, let’s take a look at the most ideal starting XI that Zidane could go with to ensure positive results.
Courtois has silenced his critics this season.
After a rather tumultuous start to the season, the lanky Belgian goalkeeper has reigned supreme between the sticks and is not under threat from Alphonse Areola to be the first-choice goalkeeper.
It’s a no-brainer that he has returned to the world-class levels he consistently showcased at Chelsea and has Zidane’s complete backing.
If Real are to overturn their two-point deficit and win the campaign, Courtois will be extremely fundamental to the team.
Dani Carvajal (Right-Back)
After a woeful 2018-19 campaign, the Spanish full-back has proved himself to be indispensable. He has been the undisputed right-back for Real since returning from Bayer Leverkusen in 2013 and still is.
He has had more than a decent season, scoring once and assisting seven times in 32 appearances. Zidane will want the Spaniard to be consistent.
Raphaël Varane (Center-Back)
The towering Frenchman has had a season that is nothing short of stellar. He has been influential in defense and is the first-choice center-back alongside captain Sergio Ramos.
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Sergio Ramos (Centre-Back)
Ramos forms one of the world’s best center-back alliances with Raphaël Varane and together, they have led Real to several defensive records this season and kept the opposition forwards at bay.
Ramos not only brings his defensive A-game to the table, he is a lionheart and his never-say-die attitude has bailed his team out from difficult circumstances, something that Real would desperately want if their backs are against the wall in any game.
Mendy is a brilliant left-back in the Real Madrid ranks.
Ferland Mendy (Left-Back)
Real Madrid’s No.23 has dethroned Marcelo from the left-back position. The debate will continue as to who is better: Mendy is a beast in 1v1 situations but lacks the offensive punch and flair that his Brazilian counterpart can provide.
Casemiro (Defensive Midfielder)
After Marcos Llorente’s sale to cross-city rivals Atlético Madrid last summer, Casemiro was the only natural holding midfielder at Zidane’s disposal.
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Regardless, the Brazilian ‘destroyer’ is enjoying his best season in terms of performance and consistency, and has become a very pivotal figure in the dressing room.
Casemiro is the backbone of not only Real Madrid’s midfield, but the entire starting XI. Much of Real’s results will likely depend of how good or bad Casemiro performs.
Toni Kroos (Central Midfielder)
Much like almost every other member of Real’s 2018-19 campaign, Toni Kroos has recovered after a disastrous season and has reinstated his position as one of the best central midfielders in Europe.
He has upped his scoring ante as well. His shooting numbers have increased and so have his goals – he has already scored five goals this season, equalling his highest goalscoring season (five goals in 2017-18).
He is one of Zidane’s most trusted men and he will be expected to restore that faith by helping Real during the remainder of the LaLiga season.
Valverde has shined this season.
Federico Valverde (Central Midfielder)
It would be safe to say that Zinedine Zidane has found his Paul Pogba in Fede Valverde. The Uruguayan wonderkid has proved to be an indispensable figure at just 21 years of age.
He brings the X-factor to Real Madrid’s midfield and adds an extra dimension to a midfield that lacks depth this season. Real haven’t lost in LaLiga whenever Valverde has started, which just goes far to show that he is a vital cog in Real’s engine. Simply put, he is undroppable.
Gareth Bale (Right Winger)
Ever since that historic Kyiv night where Bale led Real to a Champions League three-peat, he has drastically fallen out of favor due to issues both on and off the pitch.
As it stands, Gareth Bale has returned as the fittest player from the lockdown, and it would make sense if Zidane starts with Bale instead of Marco Asensio on the right side of the attack, as Asensio would be making a comeback from injury after almost a year.
Karim Benzema (Central Forward)
With Luka Jovic out injured and Mariano not being entrusted by Zidane to solve the goalscoring woes, Big Benz will be expected to lead the attack once again and demonstrate his abilities by regularly finding the back of the net.
Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio’s return will obviously lessen the burden from his shoulders, and he might thrive alongside such creative and world-class wingers.
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Benzema is head and shoulders above both Jović and Mariano in terms of both the pecking order and quality, and being the top scorer for Real Madrid for consecutive seasons speaks volumes about his exploits.
Hazard has dazzled whenever he has played.
Eden Hazard (Left Winger)
Eden Hazard’s season can be summed up by just one word: unfortunate.
He started the season on the sidelines, and was injured two more times midway through. However, whenever he has played, he has found his groove and formed an exhilarating chemistry with Karim Benzema.
Hazard has been scintillating during training and Zidane is no doubt a happy coach. The 29-year-old Belgian will be expected to waltz through defenses and lead the charge for an unprecedented 34th league triumph.
The global invasion of the coronavirus put the season on a halt, which has given Hazard a chance to redeem his debut season with his dream club that has so far been plagued by injuries and misfortune.