It has been 10 weeks since Real Madrid last failed to win a match. In fact, 10 weeks ago they had just lost two in a row and the wheels were coming off. After losing 4-2 to the pre-David Moyes Real Sociedad and 2-1 at home to current champions Atletico, many were beginning to panic. Some feared the season was over before it had even begun. The one man this panic didn’t affect though, was Madrid’s master tactician.
Carlo Ancelotti kept his cool when no one else could and turned the situation around. 13 wins later and Madrid went into the international break top of la liga with a two point lead over Barcelona having qualified from the group stages of the Champions League and with a comfortable lead in their Copa Del Rey tie against third-tier side Cornella
Over the international break though, Luka Modric picked up a thigh injury while representing Croatia. The muscle tear could keep the little maestro out of action for as long as four months, and while Madrid have cover in his position, the injury threatens the stability that is currently being enjoyed at the Bernabeu.
Stability is a word not often used to describe what’s going on at Real Madrid. However, with everyone in form, Ronaldo on the brink of retaining his Ballon d’Or and Jesé returning from his long-term injury; everything is going brilliantly. Ancelotti is also close to signing a contract extension. Not many Real Madrid managers are around long enough to get those.
Off-field too Florentino Perez has just agreed two very lucrative partnerships with IPIC to renovate the stadium as well as teaming up with Microsoft, who will be the new technological partner of Real Madrid and will “revolutionalise the soccer experience for members and fans by providing digital services that are accessible on a host of devices.”
Modric’s injury isn’t going to ruin Real Madrid’s season, but it will certainly provide a bit of a chink in the armour. He is a player who has been consistently brilliant for Real Madrid over the past 18 months and is rightly praised by fans and media alike. His unlikely partnership in the middle of the park with Toni Kroos is what has kept Real Madrid ticking this season, providing the balance to the incredible firepower of Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema and James.
People have been scrambling over who can replace Modric and what will happen in his absence. The options are: Sami Khedira, Asier Illarramendi and Isco. Depending on the system employed, different players will be used. In a system where Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema all play then it is likely that Isco and James will join Kroos in a middle three. In a more orthadox 4-4-2 with James and Bale taking up wide positions then Khedira or Illarra are more suited.
Both Khedira and Illarra are the sensible options. They will provide a bit more defensive bite to the side, Khedira especially. While neither can replace Modric’s creativity, there is already plenty within the side for it not to be an issue. Khedira will feel that this is his opportunity to get back into the team and form a partnership in the middle with his international teammate Kroos. A pairing that could be very interesting to see for Real Madrid. One that potentially allows Kroos to have a bit more creative freedom, which he would no doubt enjoy.
Such is the talent in this Real Madrid squad they could turn up against most sides in la liga and pick up three points. His injury is a blow but it also opens up possibilities for other players within the squad. Perhaps it is better that the injury comes now, rather than in February which would see Modric missing the most important months of the season.