Real Madrid: 4 ways the defense can improve for the rest of the season

Raphael Varane of Real Madrid (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Raphael Varane of Real Madrid (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Casemiro
Real Madrid, Casemiro (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

A fresh, mistake-free Casemiro

Casemiro registered a career-high 3,091 minutes in La Liga last season. Real Madrid did not have a single backup defensive midfielder, and they could not afford to rest Casemiro. He was one of the team’s most important players alongside top scorer and assist-provider Karim Benzema and captain Sergio Ramos. Casemiro was the world’s best defensive midfielder, and it really wasn’t a debate. He even came up big offensively, scoring two goals in a 2-1 win over Sevilla.

But this season, Casemiro hasn’t looked like the same player. At times, he’s been straight-up terrible. Real Madrid were lucky not to concede against Levante when Casemiro made error after error in midfield, as the well-coached Frogs focused on pressing Case relentlessly whenever he received the ball near his own penalty box at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

The same story happened against Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan. Real Madrid won 3-2, but Casemiro completed under 75 percent of his passes and was embarrassed by Inter. Los Blancos could have easily blown the game with the way Case played. His performance set off alarm bells across the fanbase, as Madridistas are not used to a player of Casemiro’s caliber playing that poorly.

In the grand scheme of things, Case will be fine. At least, that’s what Madridistas hope. But the concerns about the world-class Brazilian are not unfounded. If his struggles are an issue of workload, then that’s a major issue. Because Real still don’t have a backup for him after making no signings in 2020. The only solution would be a double-pivot, such as the Toni Kroos and Luka Modric axis that seemingly worked at Sociedad on Matchday 1.

When Casemiro struggles, Real Madrid are in trouble. They rely on him so much defensively to clean up danger and protect the back four, specifically to cover for attacking fullbacks. Want an example of how much the transition defense needs Case? Look no further than the 4-1 loss to Valencia at the Mestalla. That had, “We miss Casemiro” written all over it.