Real Madrid vs. Athletic Club: 3 players who must step up with Casemiro suspended

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

Real Madrid won’t have Casemiro available on Tuesday night at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano when they face off against Athletic Bilbao.

After beating Sevilla, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Atletico Madrid in consecutive clean sheets, Real Madrid will have another big home match on Tuesday night at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano against Athletic Club.

The Basque side are never easy to face, even when Real don’t have to travel to San Mames. Earlier this year in their road match on the path to a 34th league title, Los Blancos needed a late penalty to get past Bilbao 1-0.

This week, Real Madrid will be clear favorites, but they must win without Casemiro, who was suspended for his fifth yellow card of the season after fouling Joao Felix in the first half of El Derbi.

Here are three players on the Royal Whites who must step up for Casemiro.

CM Toni Kroos

The best way to replace Casemiro is to go with a double-pivot of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, with Kroos dropping deeper of the two of them as a regista who can help shield the defense a little bit. He filled that role perfectly in a win over Inter Milan, controlling the match alongside Modric in a Madrid masterclass.

Perhaps Kroos could be asked to do the same by Zinedine Zidane on La Liga’s Matchday 14 against Athletic Club in lieu of Casemiro. The tandem of Modric and Kroos with Martin Odegaard in an attacking midfield role has been fruitful this season.

CM Fede Valverde

If Zidane opts to stick with his usual three-man midfield setup in the 4-3-3 formation, then Fede Valverde becomes the key man.

Valverde made his return to the pitch in El Derbi, playing out the closing moments for Modric after the Croatian had run himself ragged. Modric may need some rest on Tuesday night vs. Bilbao, so Real Madrid could opt for Valverde to start instead of a Kroos and Modric double-pivot.

So far this season, Valverde has been one of Real’s best players. Karim Benzema is the only player with more goals in La Liga than Valverde. It will be exciting for Madridistas to see him back in the starting lineup again.

CB Raphael Varane

Casemiro’s biggest asset is the defensive cover he proves, which we saw first-hand in both clean sheets over Gladbach and Atleti. The Brazilian defensive midfielder made life easier for Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos at center back, as Real Madrid took Joao Felix and Luis Suarez out of the game on Saturday night.

Next. Real Madrid's best performances from the win over Atleti. dark

Varane will have to do more covering for Ramos, Dani Carvajal, and the rest of the defense with Casemiro out. Valverde can cover a lot of ground and Kroos is effective at chipping in despite his lack of speed, but there is no replacing Casemiro. So it will be Varane who must step up the most out of all the defenders, even when it comes to making up for Case’s ability to score headed goals in the box from set pieces.