Should Real Madrid avoid starting Alvaro Odriozola against Liverpool?

Real Madrid, Alvaro Odriozola (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Alvaro Odriozola (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid are down to just one right back option in a back four. On Saturday, Lucas Vazquez, after assisting Karim Benzema and playing well defensively, went down with an injury that proved to be a season-ender. Dani Carvajal has already been out since February and isn’t expected back this week either.

So it is all up to Alvaro Odriozola if Zinedine Zidane were to stick with a back four for a third game in a row.

Although Real head into Wednesday night’s second leg with a 3-1 advantage, they know they cannot afford to let their guard down against a hungry Liverpool side that has everything to play for in the Champions League. A second leg comeback would effectively save their season.

Odriozola, therefore, can be pinpointed by Jurgen Klopp as a weakness. He did not play well in the second half for Los Blancos in El Clasico, even though Real held on for the win. And he has been a concern for Madridistas throughout the season, especially when he was part of the XI for that disaster at Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey.

Fede Valverde would be a better option than Alvaro Odriozola for Real Madrid

I don’t think Odriozola is a terrible player. In fact, I think he’s a good attacking right back who can be an asset somewhere. I am not so sure that this “somewhere” is the city of Madrid, unfortunately, because he’s had so many defensive lapses that it seems impossible to trust him. He also seems low on confidence, which is another reason to be wary of starting him in a Champions League elimination match.

What are the alternatives to Odriozola? There’s really only one, and that’s shifting back to the back three, which is a setup Zinedine Zidane used to beat Atalanta 3-1 in the second leg of the last Champions League tie.

The personnel wouldn’t be ideal without Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos, but a back three of Ferland Mendy, Nacho Fernandez, and Eder Militao is still pretty damn good. All three were great last week, and I’d take them over Liverpool’s center backs.

In Odriozola’s place, Real Madrid could start Fede Valverde on the right side. Zidane says he’s available for selection. If he can’t start, then that complicates things and we start talking about the likes of Rodrygo Goes. But if he can start, he’s an ideal option and far more trustworthy than Odriozola. He played very well on the right side against both Liverpool and Barcelona.

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If Real Madrid can, they should go with a back three and Valverde on the right. And if not, they may have to roll the dice and trust Odriozola in a big spot. Who knows? Maybe he shocks us. A couple of people probably doubted Militao in the first leg, but he stepped up. Odriozola, who won last year’s Champions League as a backup with Bayern, could, too.