Real Madrid: Modric ban leaves Zidane with a dilemna

Real Madrid will face Valladolid on Saturday without one of its stalwarts, with the four likely candidates to replace him being Fede, Isco, James or Lucas.

The confirmation of Modric’s one-game suspension leaves Zinedine Zidane with some thinking to do regarding who will fill in for the Croatian against Valladolid on Saturday.

Without Modric, the player who has had the tenth highest number of minutes under Zidane, the French coach has at least four candidates to choose from: Isco, Fede Valverde, James and Lucas Vázquez.

Logic would point to Isco as the main option. The Malaga native was tenth in the squad in number of minutes played (329) during pre-season, with four starts in seven games. Those stats place him above the other three and underline Zidane’s confidence in him. And he would fit into a 4-3-3 system in a free roaming role – á la Modric – quite naturally.

Valverde and James
While Isco seems like the obvious choice, Fede and James have also put their hands up for consideration. On the opening day of the season last weekend, it was surprising to see Valverde left out of the squad. He is the purest central midfielder out of the four, and therefore, in theory, would be the most natural alternative to Modric, Casemiro or Kroos.

However, considering James made the bench ahead of Valverde against Celta last weekend, he would probably be favoured ahead of the Spanish central midfielder. The Colombian has impressed Zidane in training and is definitely in with a shout to start in place of the Ballon d’Or winner.

The rest of the eleven will likely remain unchanged from the trip to Balaídos, aside from Dani Carvajal, who returns after suspension and is set to start ahead of Álvaro Odriozola.

Lucas Vázquez in a 4-4-2
Considering Zidane’s openness to changing his formation in the pre-season, it would not be crazy to suggest that Lucas Vazquez could come in were the French coach to deploy a 4-4-2 system.

In this scenario, two players would form the engine room, Casemiro and Kroos, while outside them would be two wingers, with Lucas Vázquez being one of the purest in that position. Vinicius or Bale would be chosen on the other wing, with the unchosen of those two joining Benzema on the front line.