Marcelo and Modric Injury Update – Time to Panic?

(Photo by Angel Martinez/Real Madrid via Getty Images)
(Photo by Angel Martinez/Real Madrid via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid are in the middle of their biggest injury crisis of the season. Is it time for Real Madrid fans to start panicking? Alex McVey provides an injury update. 

In January 2015, Real Madrid was riding high on a historic win-streak, until it all came crashing down around them with injuries to key players.

The sight of Luka Modrić and Marcelo coming off injured during Madrid’s 2-1 victory against Malaga has some Madrid fans worried that history might be repeating itself.

The club has since provided medical updates on both injuries. Modrić suffered a strain in his right abductor muscle. While the Croatian maestro was initially feared to be out for a month, Madrid now expect him to return to action in around 10 days.

Marcelo’s injury, on the other hand, is more serious, as he suffered a grade 2 muscle injury in his left hamstring. He will be out for a month or more.

These injuries could not have come at a worse time of the season. Madrid’s schedule is packed with tough matches across three different competitions.

Additionally, Modrić and Marcelo join an already crowded injury list. Carvajal, Pepe, Coentrao, and Bale are all out with injury, and Ronaldo, James, and Danilo also a doubt for the upcoming 2nd leg match against Celta Vigo.

The question must be asked: is it time to start panicking?

I believe the answer to this question all depends on how Zidane is able to adapt in defense.

Two years ago, Modrić was the crucial piece of the puzzle dictating Madrid’s success. When Modrić was out, Madrid was in trouble. Having sold Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso, Madrid’s midfield crumbled without Luka’s commanding presence.

This year, however, Zidane has a number of options who can step up in Modrić’s absence. Mateo Kovačić has been a revelation, and will likely slot in to replace his Croatian compatriot. Additionally, the likes of Isco and Asensio have been seeing their fair share of minutes this season, and might provide Zidane with another set of options to replace Modrić in the midfield.

However, the defense seems to be a concern. With Carvajal and Marcelo out, Los Blancos are currently without both of their starting fullbacks. While on paper Madrid should have adequate replacements in the form of Fabio Coentrao and Danilo, both players have had miserable showings when called upon this season. Additionally, both the replacement fullbacks are still struggling with niggling injuries, and might not be able to slot in as soon as Madrid need.


The injury to Madrid’s fullbacks is especially devastating given Zidane’s overall tactical approach throughout the year. Much of Madrid’s offensive production comes through the fullbacks, who penetrate on the wings and whip in crosses to be met by the heads of Madrid’s forwards. Marcelo and Danilo are both excellent crossers of the ball, with Marcelo being perhaps one of the best crossing fullbacks in the world.

Madrid has struggled at times this season in creating offense through Zone 14 (the center of the attacking third just outside of the opponent’s box). Either Madrid’s replacement fullbacks will need to step their game up to adequately cover the offensive production of Marcelo and Carvajal, or Zidane will need to find an alternate route to goal by improving penetration through the center of the pitch.

Madrid is extraordinarily fortunate that Nacho is turning into one of the most versatile defensive players in the world. Although he usually plays as a center back, the Spaniard will likely slot into Marcelo’s slot on the left, where he has served as a suitable replacement earlier this season. This means that Danilo will need to get fit soon and and improve his performances substantially in the absence of Carvajal on the right hand side.

(Photo by Helios de la Rubia/Real Madrid via Getty Images)
(Photo by Helios de la Rubia/Real Madrid via Getty Images) /

Another option that Zidane has is to move to the 3-5-2 system that worked for about 85 minutes against Sevilla. Putting hardworking midfielders like Isco and Lucas Vázquez on the wings and a 3-man back line might give Madrid the defensive stability they need in the absence of their key fullbacks. However, this strategy is risky, as Zidane has not yet worked the kinks out of that approach.

Must Read: Ronaldo suffering his annual January slump

Regardless of what Zidane chooses, the upcoming month of fixtures will be crucial to the rest of Madrid’s season. If they can stay alive in the Champions League and Copa del Rey and maintain their lead at the top of the league, they will be in a great position when key players like Marcelo and Bale return. If not, we might see a repeat of the calamitous 2014-2015 season, where Madrid ended without silverware.

Zidane has impressed thus far by finding tactical solutions to seemingly impossible problems. Before we panic, we should give him the chance to surprise us yet again.

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