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

Real Madrid, Casemiro (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Casemiro (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid defensive midfielder Casemiro has been at the heart of Los Blancos’ recent defensive success, shining throughout the month of February when the club won all five of their fixtures. He has continued his strong play in the month of March, providing the game-tying assist for Karim Benzema in El Derbi to go with three total key passes, a team-high six tackles, and two interceptions, per

Next weekend, Real Madrid will face Elche, and Casemiro will probably have another role to play in that league encounter. But the following Tuesday, the Brazilian will be unavailable for the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16 against Atalanta after picking up a yellow card for fouling Duvan Zapata in the first leg.

Although Real are up 1-0 on Atalanta in the tie with an away goal in their pocket, Case will be missed. Let’s look at three players who must step up with the defensive midfielder suspended.

CM Fede Valverde

We begin with Fede Valverde, who is Casemiro’s direct replacement. He is not a defensive midfielder, but he is capable of contributing greatly to the defensive side of the game with his strength in the tackle work rate, and high clip of ball recoveries.

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Valverde’s return to the team last Monday against Real Sociedad has given Real Madrid a real boost, and he was a positive influence on the 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid on Sunday. In both matches, Valverde came off the bench to give Los Merengues a noticeable boost.

He will need to be ready to dominate against Atalanta, because Casemiro is a huge asset to lose against an attacking-minded team with forwards like Duvan Zapata, Josip Ilicic, and Luis Muriel.

CB Raphael Varane

The other center back spot is in question, because we don’t know if Sergio Ramos will be back by the time the Champions League returns.

If he cannot play, Real will hope for Nacho Fernandez to have yet another massive Champions League performance this campaign, as he did against Inter and in the first leg at Atalanta.

Either way, Raphael Varane will feel the most heat without Casemiro in front of him. Varane is usually the one trusted to read the game, sweep up and clear the danger, and chase down forwards who are trying to catch Real on the break. He’ll be the one focused on the most to protect Real’s 1-0 lead in the tie.

ST Karim Benzema

It may seem weird to have a striker listed as one of the three players who must step up the most for a defensive midfielder, but Case’s impact on Real Madrid isn’t just defensive. He’s made a lot of important goal contributions to Real to decide games, including over the weekend with his assist for the striker in the 1-1 draw with Atleti. And as a whole, Case is second to only Benz in the goals column in La Liga this season.

Casemiro mostly helps Real score with his head on Toni Kroos’ set piece. Without Casemiro, Varane must step up in this regard, too, but we can also say that Benzema will have to carry an even greater goal-scoring responsibility if it turns out Los Blancos need to score a second goal in the tie to seal advancement. And that’s not a far-fetched proposition, given how hard it will be to hold an 11-man Atalanta off the scoresheet.

Next. 3 burning questions from Real Madrid's 1-1 draw with Atleti. dark

Real Madrid already ask for a lot from Benzema, and it looks like they must do so yet again next Tuesday at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.