Real Madrid: Vinicius Junior holds the keys against Atalanta

Real Madrid, Vinicius Junior (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Vinicius Junior (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid are coming off three straight clean sheets, so even though Atalanta pose a huge threat offensively with players like Josip Ilicic, Luis Muriel, and Duvan Zapata up top, the biggest questions directed at Los Blancos are in the attack.

That’s because Karim Benzema will miss a second straight match with an injury, forcing the underwhelming Mariano Diaz to start up top. And on his right, Marco Asensio has been even more disappointing to Madridistas.

The left side of Real’s attack, though, is a symbol of hope. Vinicius Junior had a rough patch this season, including a much-criticized display at Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, but he has returned to form in recent weeks.

After recording four dribbles completed and four fouls drawn against Huesca, per, Vinicius recorded an assist in a 2-0 win over Getafe. He was strong against Valencia as well, drawing three more fouls for Real Madrid in another 2-0 win.

Vinicius Junior will be Real Madrid’s best forward at Atalanta

Vini fell back down to earth against Real Valladolid, whom he defeated earlier this season with a winning goal, but he was honestly better than both Mariano and Asensio.

On Wednesday night in the Champions League, Vinicius is Real’s hope in the attack. In last year’s Round of 16, he was one of the star performers in the first leg against Manchester City but was unused in the second leg. His lack of minutes at City disappointed Madridistas, especially since starter Eden Hazard was clearly not 100 percent for that match.

Now, Hazard is out with an injury, Benzema and Rodrygo are out, too, and thus Vinicius Junior is the most consistent performer in the front three. It’s funny, many Madridistas would not use “consistent” to describe the left winger, but outside of the period this season in which he struggled, he was actually consistently good for Real Madrid in 2019-2020 and excelled to start the 2020-2021 season.

Fans have short-term memories sometimes, but those of us who have watched Vinicius since his emergence in 2018-2019 understand what the young man is capable of. At 20, Vini is a capable starter for Real Madrid at an age in which most players are eased in with brief bench appearances, such as what we have seen with fellow forward Sergio Arribas.

Vini’s confidence remains despite all the criticisms and the rough periods. He knows what he is capable of, and he knows it is a process. On Wednesday, Vini will go up against an Atalanta defense that is one of the few areas Real can exploit in this tricky matchup. He won’t have much help, but he can take ownership of the situation and prove his doubters wrong in a massive way by taking over.

Next. 5 Real Madrid players who must shine at Atalanta. dark

Real Madrid will fully look to Vinicius at Atalanta. He is the solution in the attack. Asensio and Mariano are capable, but Vini is the one true star in the waiting. Let’s see if he can take center stage and lift this team’s floundering, injury-stricken attack.