Real Madrid at Chelsea: Five X-Factors who could change the game

Real Madrid, Ferland Mendy (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Ferland Mendy (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid, Fede Valverde
Real Madrid, Fede Valverde (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid CM Fede Valverde

The last X-Factor to watch is another Real Madrid player returning from a multi-game absence. Fede Valverde has tested negative for COVID-19 and can now officially play again. Because Valverde has not played recently, there’s a question about his match fitness and ability to start for Los Merengues this week.

Although Valverde is listed as a center midfielder, he is so much more than that. Valverde has been used as a wide midfielder (like a Mezzala in Serie A), a right winger, and even a right back. He can even be used as an “anti-10”, not just a No. 8 in midfield who plays box-to-box in a deeper role.

Because of his versatility, ball-winning, and underrated goal-scoring chops, Valverde is the definition of an X-Factor in any game. He can be Real’s counter to N’Golo Kante’s industry and defensive work rate in midfield, as Kante absolutely crushed Los Merengues in the first leg.

Valverde becomes an even bigger X-Factor in the second leg, though, because of the questions regarding his return from COVID-19. How sharp will he be? Will he start? Where would he play? And if he comes off the bench, how would Zinedine Zidane maximize the Uruguayan’s effectiveness?

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In a match that could go 120 minutes before we learn of a victor, Valverde, who is willing to do anything to win (just ask Diego Simeone), could be one of the players who tips the balance of the match in his team’s favor.