Real Madrid – La Liga Athletic Club eliminated Real Madrid
Since just before Christmas, Zinedine Zidane has settled on a regular starting XI which he could trust and bring him positive results, but the French coach’s unwillingness to veer away from that regular selection has left players exhausted, and everyone paid the price in Thursday’s Supercopa de Espana semi-final defeat to Athletic Club.
Following draws against Osasuna and Elche over the festive period, Real Madrid have had to answer suggestions that they were burnt out, but they failed to do so against Marcelino’s charges.
The starting XI on Thursday was the same one which started in the heavy Pamplona snow, with Zidane failing to take into account travel fatigue and sporting wear and tear.
It’s worth noting just how much football some of Los Merengues‘ stars have played this team, with Thibaut Courtois playing every single match, Raphael Varane missing just 90 minutes all season and Lucas Vazquez completing 16 successive fixtures in the starting XI.
It was bound to catch up with the players at some point, and Zidane will need to find a way of trusting his other players before the Champions League restarts.
Toni Kroos has played 14 matches in a row and once more the French coach has fallen back on the midfield trio of Casemiro, Luka Modric and the former Bayern Munich player, which helped win multiple Champions Leagues.
The reality is that Zidane has forgotten about players like Eder Militao, Alvaro Odriozola, Martin Odegaard and even Marcelo. Vinicius Junior and Fede Valverde are gone from the starting line-up, whilst Rodrygo Goes‘ injury has kept him on the sidelines.
Zidane has made minimal changes for such a long time, but he is now starting to pay for it, something that he admitted in a press conference of late, and if Los Blancos are to win trophies this year he will need to use his squad, not just his go-to starting XI.