Real Madrid must give Luka Modric rest vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

Real Madrid, Luka Modric (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Luka Modric (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images) /

For the first time in 2020, Real Madrid center midfielder Luka Modric looked worn out this weekend in a 1-0 loss to Cadiz.

Real Madrid are searching for answers this week. Their Saturday matchup at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano against newly-promoted Cadiz was supposed to be an easy win. A tune-up, if you will, before Los Blancos opened the Champions League campaign against Shakhtar Donetsk and faced Barcelona in another pivotal Clasico that next Saturday.

Instead, Real Madrid underestimated their opponents and paid the price, producing a disasterclass not seen since the start of 2019-2020. This match was even more disheartening than the loss to Mallorca last October, and it required a quick turnaround against Shakhtar this Wednesday, perhaps without captain Sergio Ramos in the lineup.

Prior to the October international break, Croatian midfielder Luka Modric had been Real Madrid’s best outfield player, averaging 2.5 key passes per game and 2.5 dribbles completed per match with solid defensive contributions. His performance against Real Valladolid in the home opener was particularly brilliant.

Many fans assumed Modric would be rested after getting so many starts for the club and also playing well for his country during the so-called break. Instead, Modric started, and he struggled mightily, losing the ball a handful of times in an uncharacteristic performance before being subbed off. Per, he did not complete a single dribble.

Real Madrid need to protect Luka Modric from more fatigue

On Wednesday, Real will want to mount an immediate response, but they need to do it without Modric in the starting XI. The Croatian superstar is such an engine in midfield and can give so much in the later stages of a match, but he is still human and needs to be taken care of at 34 despite his unexplainable stamina.

Zinedine Zidane and Los Blancos need to protect Modric after failing to do so against Cadiz. As tough as it is to leave such an instrumental, nay legendary, midfielder out of the starting lineup, it is in Real Madrid’s best interests to keep him fresh.

Because Saturday, the Clasico awaits. And if anyone can turn the tide for Real one week after they lost to Cadiz against an equally-motivated Barcelona side at the Camp Nou, then it is the midfield genius Luka Modric himself.

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Shakhtar are not to be underestimated under any circumstances. But this isn’t underestimation. From what we saw on Saturday, is starting Modric again really in Real’s best interests? I don’t think so, and I think a little rest will have the magician back to his world-class best in Barcelona.