Having finally hit form under new manager Rafael Benitez, Real Madrid suffered a triple blow against Shakhtar Donetsk when they lost Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane to injury. Bale was starting to enjoy his new no. 10 role under Benitez, and with James out injured, we look at three players who could come in to replace the Welsh star.
Real Madrid revealed that the Welsh international will be out indefinitely out after being forced off just half an hour in Madrida s 4-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk.
A statement on their website said: a The player has been diagnosed with a soleus muscle injury in his left leg. His condition will be evaluated.”
Bale was sidelined for three weeks with a calf problem last season, too. With James Rodriguez out injured following the return from international duty, Real Madrid have a decision to make as to which player they will play in the weekend clash against Granada.
1 – Isco
Since joining from Malaga, Isco has been on the fringes of stardom for sometime now. After initially failing to break though in the Real Madrid XI, the play maker finally found his groove under Carlo Ancelotti last season, putting is some fantastic displays. The stylish midfielder, whose style of play is much different to the direct running and off the ball movement that epitomizes Bale’s play, can be beneficial for Cristiano Ronaldo given his ability to find his teammates through the eye of the needle.
Isco has grown leaps and bound in the Real Madrid shirt over the last couple of years and will have no problem in slotting in the XI for Rafa Benitez.
2 – Matteo Kovacic
Kovacic raised a few eyebrows when he chose to join Real Madrid from Inter Milan given the central midfield talents on the books at Santiago Bernabeu. However, the Croatian may be in line for an extended run in the starting XI due to the injury to James and Bale. He was the player Benitez brought on after the half hour mark against Shakhtar to replace the injured Bale. Benitez did go on to clear that the substitution did not indicate his preference for the Croat as the replacement for Bale, but was simply the tactical requirement in the game.
He said . : a If Bale doesna t start, ita s open to anyone. Today [Kovacic] played due to the characteristics of the opponents but in future, Jese, Cheryshev or Lucas Vazquez could play.
Kovacic’s style of play is much different to Bale, with the player preferring to come on the ball and creating chances for his teammates through his vision and passing rather than via direct running.
3 – Jese Rodriguez
As Benitez said, Jese could also replace Gareth Bale in the starting XI and there is a good chance he will against Granada. Style-wise, he is the player closest to play the shadow striker role Benitez had given to Bale. Jese has pace and the ability to run at players. His instincts are also that of a forward having played in the position for a majority of his Castilla career.
The young forward could slot in the XI without Benitez having to alter his tactics much with Isco slotting on the right side of the Real Madrid attack against Granada.
Benitez did mention the possibility of playing Denis Cheryshev or Lucas Vazquez. Given the above three can easily play the role, it looks unlikely the duo have a chance of starting. H0wever, they can certainly count on coming off the bench if Benitez needs to change things, especially since tiredness will be a factor due to the midweek Champions League game.