If Ancelotti wants to find relief from the plague of injuries plaguing Real Madrid, he can turn to Zidane. He was the latest to suffer from a situation identical to the one the Italian currently finds himself in, with a constant barrage of injuries that have brought his number of absences due to health problems to nine. In seven days, Real Madrid will be back in action and severely depleted.
Ancelotti needs ideas and all kinds of plans to get out of trouble. And in that sense Zizou he has experience, having had to perform all kinds of “pirouettes” to survive Madrid’s last great crisis in the 2020/21 season, in which he also had nine absentees.
A plague that left Zidane without right-backs (Carvajal and Lucas), without his starting pair of center-backs (Varane and Ramos) and, in one fell swoop, without Benzema, Rodrygo, Valverde and Hazard. Despite this, Real Madrid not only maintained their position, but fought for the championship until the last round after 13 wins and 5 draws in the last 18 matches, also reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, where they lost to Chelsea.
Mariano and Marcelo and Mariano and Isco “alone” on the bench
In February 2021, in the middle of a sporting crisis, Zidane had many absentees. He faced eight and nine absences in league matches against Huesca and Getafe. Hazard, Ramos, Militão, Carvajal, Rodrygo, Valverde, Lucas and Isco were absent in the first, and Hazard, Ramos, Militão, Carvajal, Rodrygo, Valverde, Lucas and Odriozola (plus the suspended Kroos) in the second. Huesca only had Marcelo and Mariano on the bench, and the Brazilian had to come on to replace the injured Odriozola. Against Getafe, Mariano and Isco were the only first-team players on the bench. On the day that Zizou he had to play with three central defenders (Nacho, Varane and Mendy) and deployed Marvin Park on the right, with Marcelo on the other flank. Modric and Casemiro were the only midfielders.
Isco among Castillistas and as the “false nine”
A few days later, Zidane faced the matches against Valladolid and Atalanta with nine absentees. In the league, Isco sat on the bench alongside Lunin, Altube, Chust, Miguel Gutiérrez, Blanco, Hugo Duro and Arribas. On the pitch, Mariano was the mainstay of the attack due to Karim’s absence, and Lucas was starting to take his first steps at right back. Against Atalanta, Isco had to play as a false nine and Mariano was the only first-team player on the bench, accompanied by the same five Castilla players.
Valverde as right back
For a few weeks, Zidane could breathe and had “only” four to five absences. The problem is that some of those absentees were focused on a specific position, as was the case with the injuries of Carvajal and Lucas Vázquez. This forced the coach to improvise in the position, and Valverde started the Champions League match against Liverpool on the right side of defence. Nacho and Militão jumped into the squad due to the absence of Ramos and Varane, the latter due to the coronavirus that hit the teams at the time (the Frenchman missed four matches).
A desperate situation
The drama returned quickly with seven absentees. Nacho was dropped from the squad and Chust started against Getafe with Modric, Isco and Asensio playing in midfield, while Valverde was the next to test positive and miss four games. In the match against Cádiz, Blanco was included in the eleven, and Zidane had to return to a formation with three central defenders, with Marcelo and Odriozola on the shuttles, to complete the eleven.
Vinícius on the right pendulum
The last episode of the injury crisis that season left an anecdote about Vinícius’s shuttle performance. It was in the second semi-final against Chelsea, a match where Zidane had to force the return of Ramos and Mendy as there was no other option to try and get through. Real was eliminated in Europe, but fought for the championship until the last round. However, a miracle did not happen, but the Frenchman still deserves applause for how he was able to use the few available players.