Real Madrid vs. PSG: The backup player who has earned a start the most

Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti (Photo by Alvaro Medranda/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti (Photo by Alvaro Medranda/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid bounced back from a tough loss in the Copa del Rey on Thursday against Athletic Bilbao by defeating Granada by the same scoreline, 1-0. The match against Granada could have went differently after a woeful first half, but Carlo Ancelotti finally swallowed his pride and brought in Luka Jovic and Eden Hazard, who changed the fortunes of the attack. And then Marco Asensio scored a worldie to provide the difference.

But before Ancelotti brought in the forwards, he subbed in Fede Valverde at the half-time break. The player he took off, Eduardo Camavinga, did not play poorly, but the overall decision to bring in Fede paid off handsomely.

In fact, many Madridistas were wondering why Fede did not start the match. He brought much-needed dynamism to the midfield, as the Bernabeu faithful applauded the young Uruguayan so often. He was all over the pitch, breaking up play and pressing Granada defenders into mistakes.

Valverde could have even had a goal, but the ever-controversial Mateu Lahoz whistled the play dead for a phantom goal just as Fede was through on goal. He did not even let the play finish so VAR could check to make 100 percent sure!

Real Madrid, Fede Valverde
Real Madrid, Fede Valverde (Photo by Alvaro Medranda/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Fede Valverde can be the X-Factor for Real Madrid vs. PSG

Nevertheless, goal or no goal, Fede made his impact felt with his hard work, defensive coverage, and constant off-the-ball runs. He is a direct, industrious player, and while the 2021-2022 campaign has not been a banner year for him, we all remember how crucial he was in the title-winning 2019-2020 campaign – and even at the beginning of 2020-2021 before injuries slowed him.

If any backup player has earned a start against PSG in the Champions League on Feb. 15, then it is Valverde. As undroppable as the midfield trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, and Casemiro appears to be on paper, Valverde has been the difference for Real in big games in the past. Whether that is El Clasico or El Derbi. Who can forget his Spanish Supercup Final performance in 2020? Or his winning goal in this season’s semifinal!

Real Madrid may not deviate from their 4-3-3 for four in midfield, but whatever direction Ancelotti goes tactically, Fede showed something against Granada. He showed that he can carry the ball, win the ball, and be a killer in transition with speed so few can match.

Los Blancos need an X-Factor against PSG, who made a statement with a demolition of Lille. PSG have serious weaknesses, yes, but they also have true superstars and the current best player in the world, Kylian Mbappe, who scored another banger this Sunday.

Real Madrid, Fede Valverde
Real Madrid, Fede Valverde (Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

PSG don’t have the personnel to match Fede Valverde’s skill-set

Fede can be the mismatch nightmare for a PSG midfield that has talent but question marks about their cohesion. And certainly, they do not have an athlete or workhorse on the level of Fede. There is a reason, in fact, why PSG have tried to acquire the 23-year-old in the past. They know he is the missing piece of the puzzle for any top team.

Los Merengues already have that piece. They can use him to win the chess match against the Parisians and embattled manager Mauricio Pochettino. After all, that same adjective can be used to describe Ancelotti, who is coming off back-to-back subpar performances in the manager’s chair.

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Villarreal is Real’s next stop. But after that tough LaLiga tilt, it will be off to the Parc des Princes. Aside from the right wing, Ancelotti’s best XI is largely settled most weeks. But he could use tweaks for rest and for matchups. After what we saw from Fede Valverde on Sunday night at the Bernabeu, there is a chance he could provide that extra spark, that deadly curveball, on the road against PSG.