The injuries continue to pile up for Real Madrid. It seems like every week, there is a new issue for Zinedine Zidane to deal with on the injury front, as we see “Communicado Oficial” and the “Sanitas FC” quips that follow.
During this week’s training prior to Sunday afternoon’s match at the Wanda Metropolitano against Atletico Madrid, backup striker Mariano Diaz suffered an injury. Already, Real are faced with the prospect of missing Karim Benzema for yet another big match, as the No. 9 still has not trained and is a doubt for the match despite initial optimism of a return.
And now, his backup is out, potentially leaving Los Blancos without a true striker on Matchday 26, aside from Castilla call-up Hugo Duro. Recall that Luka Jovic and Borja Mayoral are on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt and AS Roma, respectively.
Goal.com’s Mario Cortegana reports that Mariano is expected to miss two to three weeks with this injury, which the club officially states is a muscular injury to his left external obturator.
Cortegana writes Mariano will miss the upcoming matches against Atleti, Elche the following week, Atalanta in the Champions League, and then Celta Vigo. After Vigo, we will have an international break, so Mariano could return for April’s first fixture against Eibar.
Although Mariano has frustrated Madridistas with his horrific performances up top since Benzema’s injury – and even before then, referring back to the Alcoyano loss – his injury is another blow for Zidane to worry about.
If Benzema cannot play against Atletico Madrid in this must-win match in the title race with Los Rojiblancos up five points and a game in hand, then Zidane will have to get creative. He used Isco as a false nine against 10-man Atalanta, but that would surely flop against Atleti. It’s not like Real scored any goals when Isco was on the pitch, despite him not playing poorly there.
Rodrygo Goes and Marco Asensio might be the best options up top. Asensio has struggled mightily in front of goal, but he is worth considering at this point if Hugo Duro isn’t considered ready to start a match of this magnitude.
The recently-returned Rodrygo is by far the best option, though. He has the technique, passing quality, intelligent movement, and shooting accuracy to be a makeshift center forward. It could be an interesting experiment for Zidane to play him there in a 4-5-1 or in a 4-4-2 with Isco, Vinicius Junior, or Asensio next to him in a free role.
Hopefully, Mariano can recover by the time April resumes, but for many Madridistas, this injury only makes them pay closer attention to Benzema’s recovery.