Real Madrid: 3 players who must step up the most with Fede Valverde injured

Real Madrid, Fede Valverde (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Fede Valverde (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid will miss center midfielder Fede Valverde for at least a month, and that is a huge hole this team must fill after the international break.

The October player of the month for Real Madrid, Fede Valverde has stepped up time after time for Los Blancos since the start of the 2019-2020 season. His emergence as a true star player in midfield has been immense for Real, as he’s played a starring role in so many big games, including each of the past three Clasicos and the Spanish Supercup triumph over Atletico Madrid.

Sadly, Valverde will have to miss at least a month with a fractured tibia, compounding Real’s massive injury issues to start the season. Dani Carvajal is still out, so Real are down two key starters with Fede also on the shelf.

Real Madrid can’t replace Valverde one-for-one, but if these three players can step up in his absence, Los Blancos can still get the points they need. There are still tough fixtures coming up, including Villarreal and Inter Milan right after the break.

DM Casemiro

Perhaps nobody needs to step up to the plate more than Casemiro, whose presence was missed sorely in the loss at the Mestalla.

But Casemiro hasn’t had his best start to the 2020-2021 season. He was brilliant in 2019-2020, entrenching himself as the best player at his position. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to meet that standard this season, getting pressed easily into mistakes. Opponents have targeted Case as Real’s weak link when pressing, and, defensively, the Brazilian hasn’t been up to his usual, world-class standard.

Fede Valverde is not a defensive midfielder, but he adds a lot to Real’s defense with his running and energy. He’s also great at making passes to transition into counterattacks. So Casemiro’s passing and overall defensive influence must be excellent when Real Madrid return to the pitch without Valverde in the lineup.

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

CM Luka Modric

Arguably Real Madrid’s best outfield player of the new seasons, Luka Modric was one of the very few bright spots at the Mestalla. He has the defensive know-how, work rate, and ball-carrying to play a deeper-lying role. Real Madrid may have to move to a double-pivot when Casemiro isn’t available, and Modric can fulfill that role.

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With Valverde out, Modric is a good bet to start every game, whether on the right with Toni Kroos or on the left with Martin Odegaard filling in as the right-sided midfielder so he can pass across the pitch onto his left foot.

Modric, per, is Real’s leader in combined key passes and dribbles completed per game with 2.0 and 1.9, respectively. He’s also scored some incredible goals this season, including one from long-range against Shakhtar Donetsk and the game-sealing goal at the Camp Nou.

Always important to Real whether starting or coming off the bench, Modric’s motor has become that much more crucial over the next month without Fede Valverde available.

CM Martin Odegaard

Toni Kroos and Ferland Mendy are credible shouts, but another midfielder needs to be highlighted here. Martin Odegaard recently returned from an injury of his own, coming off the bench in the loss to Valencia on Sunday.

Real Madrid have high hopes for Odegaard this season, if he can stay healthy. They will be careful not to put pressure on another young player, but it’s fair to say that Zinedine Zidane called Odegaard back from Real Sociedad for a reason; he sees the Norwegian playmaker as an important piece in 2020-2021.

Odegaard briefly flashed his promise on Matchday 1 in a 0-0 draw at the Anoeta Stadium against his previous club, but he has been unable to truly shine since then, mostly thanks to an injury he suffered at the last international break.

But Odegaard should be 100 percent for Real’s next match against Villarreal, who are emerging as title contenders with their own impressive Madrid playmaker on loan in Takefusa Kubo.

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A huge key for Odegaard will be replacing Valverde’s goal-scoring (three so far this season) and defensive work. Odegaard isn’t known for his defense, but he is a good presser and works hard for the team.