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Tuesday 4. February 2020 - 13:32

Real Madrid can play it smart with Eden Hazard against Sociedad

Real Madrid left forward Eden Hazard returned to train with the rest of the squad before the Atletico Madrid game, but Zinedine Zidane patiently held him out. However, how much should Hazard play in Thursday’s big Copa del Rey clash with Real Sociedad?

After goalless draws in December against FC Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, Real Madrid fans were anxiously waiting for Eden Hazard’s return. Los Blancos thoroughly outplayed both Barcelona and Bilbao, but they were unable to find the quality in the final third without Hazard in the lineup.

But in January, Real won all eight of their games, including the Spanish Supercup in Saudi Arabia, to show that they can get the job done without their best player.

Hazard could have returned against Atletico Madrid on Saturday, as that was the date circled for his return from a serious ankle injury he suffered in November. Zinedine Zidane, however, wisely held out Hazard, and Real won the third Derbi of the season 1-0 behind Vinicius Junior‘s inspired second half.

On Thursday, Real Madrid will face Real Sociedad in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

They took care of business against Unionistas de Salamanca and Real Zaragoza in the first two rounds of the competition, but those were third and second league teams, respectively.

Sociedad have a real shot at playing European football next season and have three of La Liga’s best attacking players in Portu, Mikel Oyarzabal, and the familiar Martin Odegaard.

Los Blancos have a real shot at winning the Copa del Rey and have designs on a treble, sitting atop the league table over rivals Barca. Therefore, they will want to play the strongest squad possible against Sociedad this Thursday.

According to a report from COPE’s Melchor Ruiz, via Infinite Madrid on Twitter, Hazard is set to return to the lineup against Sociedad on Thursday after missing more than two months with this ankle injury.

Even so, there’s no guarantee he will play. Winning the Copa del Rey is important to Real, but not at the expense of the Champions League. And Real will undoubtedly need Hazard at 100 percent in order to beat teams like Liverpool and PSG in this competition. Or even Manchester City, whom Real fill face later this month in the Round of 16.

Still, Sociedad aren’t to be taken lightly. And while Real will want to ease Hazard back from injury, a good way to gauge his project and ease him back is to play him.

Starting Hazard for the full 90 minutes against Sociedad in his first game back seems unwise. However, having Hazard ready on the bench in case he’s needed to help the team in the second half could be a wise move. Depending on the game flow, Real can bring in Hazard for Vinicius Junior, though Vinicius is more than talented enough – and in incredible form – to win the game against La Real.

Madrid have depth and options. They don’t need to rush Hazard back, no matter how good Sociedad can be. This Copa del Rey match could be a great way to give Hazard some minutes if things are close in the second half, but, again, Los Blancos have Vinicius and a whole rest of the season to think about with Hazard.

If Hazard is indeed ready, he can be in the lineup. Los Blancos can rest him against Osasuna on Sunday, too, as that is an easier opponent. But there’s no need to force the issue, as much as fans miss watching the No. 7 play.

Provided by: Frank Henriksen
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