Real Madrid: 5 players who benefit most from Eden Hazard return

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Real Madrid CM Toni Kroos

MADRID, SPAIN – DECEMBER 22: Toni Kroos of Real Madrid looks on during the Liga match between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao on December 22, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.

CM Toni Kroos

Toni Kroos is arguably the best passer in football today, and he’s put together a brilliant season thus far. Lately, Luka Modric has been playing frequently, but Kroos remains a huge part of Zinedine Zidane‘s gameplan, especially in the Champions League.

According to WhoScored.com, no player in the Champions League group stages averaged more key passes per game than Kroos with 4.4. Only Jose Callejon was even within 1 key pass of Kroos’ average, as the former Real Madrid prospect averaged 3.4 key passes per contest.

With Hazard back in the lineup, Kroos will be able to play more clever and incisive passes to Hazard, who can make those intricate runs into the channels. And Hazard’s dribbling ability and threat will enable Kroos to have more shooting space in central areas just beyond the box. So there are two key ways Kroos can benefit as an attacking player.

LB Ferland Mendy

Ferland Mendy has emerged as the best defensive left back in world football this season, and he’s challenging the likes of Andrew Robertson, Jordi Alba, Marcel Halstenberg, and another emerging talent in Alphonso Davies as the best overall left back.

Clearly, Mendy is difficult to dribble against, given that only two players have surrendered fewer dribbles per 90. He is a wall defensively.

But he’s also been great in the attack. Mendy is averaging 2.2 dribbles per game in La Liga, which is actually the highest average on the team after Hazard. So in Hazard’s absence, the man behind him on the left side of Real’s attack has actually been the most potent dribbler on a per game basis. (Vinicius Junior would be No. 1 if he played regular starting minutes…)

When Hazard was healthy, Mendy had loads of space in support and even had some shooting opportunities. He had more time to put balls into the box, too, and since his passing as noticeably improved with each passing week, he will be more dangerous than ever with Hazard linking up.

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