Real Madrid: 4 questions to answer before the Champions League knockout round

Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Isco
Real Madrid, Isco (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Can Real Madrid find an impact sub?

Real Madrid’s depth has taken a significant hit heading into the Champions League Round of 16 due to mounting injuries. Eden Hazard, Dani Carvajal, Rodrygo Goes, and Sergio Ramos are all long-term absences now. Los Blancos have also been missing their top backup midfielder Fede Valverde, who was one of the team’s best players earlier this season.

A big issue is that Real are struggling to find a difference-maker off the bench. Vinicius Junior used to play that role, but he is now resuming his status as a quality starter with Eden Hazard out.

There are only a few candidates to take on this role if Zinedine Zidane needs a spark off the bench. At striker, Luka Jovic is on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt, so Mariano Diaz is the lone backup. He has, quite frankly, been horrible this season, and his recent performances off the bench leave no reason for Madridistas to get their hopes up.

The same story with Mariano can apply to Isco, who has one foot out the door. But we did see him play reasonably well in the final months of the 2019-2020 season. With more time and rhythm, he can do the same this season. But is his heart into it?

Sergio Arribas is the most intriguing. He looks good off the bench whenever Zidane asks him to play. The Castilla standout is a man to watch, but can Real Madrid count on such a young, inexperienced player off the bench in the Champions League? They may have to!