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Monday 11. September 2017 - 13:16

Real Madrid need a No 9 right now... with Karim Benzema injured, Cristiano Ronaldo suspended and Gareth Bale struggling to score

Suddenly selling Alvaro Morata to Chelsea doesn’t look like such a good idea for Real Madrid.

It’s not just that the Spain centre-forward has started so well in London, it’s also that Karim Benzema has been ruled out for a month with injury, Cristiano Ronaldo is still in the middle of a suspension for pushing a referee and Gareth Bale's headers are all dropping the wrong side of the keeper's far post.

Madrid need a number nine right now and the perfectly good one they had last season is scoring goals for someone else.

"We need to be more effective in front of goal," said Zinedine Zidane on Saturday after the shock 1-1 draw with Levante. The early season optimism created by that 5-1 Spanish Super Cup win over Barcelona has been drained away.

At the weekend Bale and golden boy Marco Asesnio both had four attempts on goal but failed to make them count. Bale has always looked most dangerous arriving at pace, playing him as the furthest forward robs him of his greatest weapon.

He does well enough with his back to goal playing others in and no one climbs higher to get on the end of crosses but facing his team-mates and being asked to shield the ball for other runners is exactly where opposing teams would want to see him.

Benzema is the man for link-play but his injury at the weekend will rule him out until October. Keeping Benzema, who will be 30 this December, and who has always been susceptible to injuries, while selling Madrid born Morata was not questioned last summer.

Supporters were still celebrating the Champions League and League double but it’s beginning to look like a mistake. The 24-year-old Spain centre-forward should surely have been the homegrown future of a club that is suddenly very proud of it’s ‘made-in-Spain’ contingent.

Real Madrid didn’t just let Morata go; they also sent Mariano Diaz out on loan to Lyon where he has already scored four goals in five games and is playing well enough for Spain coach Julen Lopetegui to take a look at him. He has already played one game for the Dominican Republic but would still be eligible for the switch.

Mariano only got five goals last season but the 24-year-old looks a better bet than Borja Mayoral who has stayed at Madrid but who Zidane left in the stands at the weekend as his team failed to score more than once against Levante.

None of this should serve to give Apoel too much confidence. Cristiano Ronaldo is back for this week’s game and will doubtless make goalscoring look as easy as he has made it look over the last eight years in a Real Madrid shirt.

Bale could also be set to get his goals mojo back. Apoel have Spaniard Jesus Rueda in their defence. The last time he faced Bale, the Welshman got a hat-trick as Real Madrid thrashed Real Valladolid.

A home game against the team who should be the whipping boys of Group H is exactly what Real Madrid need. A Ronaldo-inspired rout in which Bale gets on the scoresheet too would surprise no-one but the seeds of doubt have certainly been sown in the last two Real Madrid home fixtures.

This will not be enough to derail Real Madrid’s season but in a campaign when the little things will be the difference between them taking the league and Champions League or conceding them to the likes of Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain, it will be interesting to see how the long-term absence of Morata plays out. He got so many important goals from so few minutes last season – who will do the same now that he has gone?

On the plus side the over-confidence and complacency that might have surrounded the club at the start of the campaign has evaporated. That is good news for Zidane, and bad news for Apoel.

Provided by: Frank Henriksen
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