After a somewhat shaky start to the season, everything is looking rosy again at the Santiago Bernabeu. A much needed win in El Clasico has seen all of the early season doom and gloom fade away and Real Madrid are now just one point behind La Liga leaders, Barcelona and Sevilla. ISF’s Tom Wilde looks at Real’s young Spanish contingent, and their cases for first-team football.
Real Madrid began the campaign by losing the Spanish Super Cup to Atletico Madrid and followed that up with another defeat against Diego Simeone’s men in La Liga. Since the league loss to Atletico though, Real Madrid have gone on a remarkable nine game run in which they’ve scored 38 goals and taken the scalps of both Liverpool and Barcelona. While this has been an exciting run from Los Blancos and they’ve been playing some excellent football, it’s going to get even better in the coming weeks.
Back in March, everything at Real Madrid was looking good. Ancelotti’s first season in charge was going well and his side were taking on Schalke in the second leg of their last 16 tie in the Champions League. After a 6-1 first leg win, the second leg was largely meaningless. However, just two minutes into the match young sensation Jesé Rodriguez tore his anterior cruciate knee ligaments. The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the 21-year-old, whose performances were outshining the very best players in the Madrid squad. He even looked likely to make the Spanish World Cup squad. Jesé was beginning to look like a player who could one day be considered among the very best. His season was cut short though and he hasn’t played since.
Fast forward to today and Jesé is less than a month away from his return. Before he got injured he had become a huge favourite among fans at Real Madrid, who love seeing home-grown talents in the side. The same rule applies with Spaniards, which is why Isco’s name rung out around the Bernabeu on Saturday evening after he produced another sensational performance. With attacking options looking rather thin for Real Madrid on Saturday (Chicharito was the only attacking player on the Real Madrid bench) it will be very interesting to see what happens to Isco when Bale returns; and what will happen to others when Jesé returns.
Assuming that Jesé can reach the level of performances that he was producing before his injury then he would warrant a starting position. Jesé could deputise for Ronaldo on the left but his best performances came on the right; Gareth Bale’s position. James Rodriguez has had a great start since his summer move but his position in the side will also be at risk when Jesé and Bale return. Both he and Bale were regulars at the start of the season but Isco has been praised by Ancelotti after the past two matches; and the Bernabeu has also shown its love for the Spaniard. Bale’s injury has allowed Isco to nip in and prove that he’s capable of competing with the €80 and €100 million Galacticos.
It’s very difficult to imagine Bale sitting on the bench upon his return however; or that Isco can be dropped on current form. It’s probable that the Welshman will go straight into the starting XI on the right again, which means it’s a choice between James and Isco for a left-sided position behind the front three. The same position in which Isco performed so well in against Liverpool and Barcelona. His performances in the last few games have given Ancelotti a lot to ponder when Bale returns.
One of the most impressive aspects of Isco’s recent outings has been his defending. Both he and James have shown great discipline in recent weeks by tracking back and helping to defend – a necessary adaptation to their preferred roles considering Real’s midfield full of attacking talents. Credit for that must go to Ancelotti who has managed to convert two creative attackers into players willing to help out in defence; just as he did with Di Maria last season. Indeed, one of the criticisms of Bale is that he is more in the mould of Ronaldo when it comes to tracking back and he doesn’t help out in defence enough. The Welshman will have to adapt and work a bit harder if he wants to guarantee a place ahead of Isco or James.
No matter who ends up playing regularly for Real Madrid, the attacking options they have will strike fear into other clubs around Europe hoping to take their Champions League crown off of them. When Bale returns in the next couple of weeks he is going to have a fight on his hands to bench either Isco or James. Not long after that, Jesé will be back and knocking on the door too. He will be motivated and enthusiastic in his mission to get into the Madrid starting XI, and continue where he left off before his injury.
With such a wealth of attacking talent to choose from, there is great potential this season for Real Madrid and its stars. There are two exciting and popular young Spaniards knocking on the door though; the Galacticos are going to have a fight on their hands.
This article orginally appeared here.