3 Real Madrid players who must step up in the second leg vs. PSG with Ferland Mendy and Casemiro out

Real Madrid, Casemiro, Ferland Mendy (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Casemiro, Ferland Mendy (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid played abysmally in Paris against PSG in the Champions League’s Round of 16 first leg. PSG won with a 1-0 scoreline which could’ve been much worse if it wasn’t for Thibaut Courtois’s heroics between the posts and clinical performances from Real Madrid’s center-backs, Eder Militao and David Alaba. Los Blancos were also helped by some poor finishing from the Parisians but it was the target man Kylian Mbappe who made the difference within injury time.

The decisive leg will thus be played in the Spanish Capital next month. And, if being completely outplayed in midfield and restricting the attack to three shots through the 90 minutes wasn’t enough, two of Real Madrid’s first-team stars picked up their fifth yellow cards in the competition, and now they’d be suspended for the return leg in March. I am of course talking about Ferland Mendy and Carlos Casemiro.

Before I move on to my picks for the players who need to step up their game in absence of these two players, I’d like to talk about another player who may need to put on his boots and take the pitch. Its club captain, Marcelo. Well, on the very face of the issue, Marcelo doesn’t strike me as an option for the game against PSG.

He doesn’t have the legs from his prime and he’d be completely bamboozled by the likes of Neymar, Angel Di Maria, and Nuno Mendes. But, considering how unpredictable Carlo Ancelotti has been, I think Marcelo should start putting in extra shifts in the training. He may have to feature in this game after all. And, if that happens, there’s no doubt that he’d have to step up his game a lot from the best of him that we’ve seen this season. Here are the other players.

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

3. CB/LB Nacho Fernandez

I think, if Carlo Ancelotti must go for either one between Marcelo and Nacho, I think he should pick the Spaniard for this game. While Nacho isn’t a natural in the left-back position, he is a versatile defender who can work within transitioning roles. Including Nacho among the starters opens up tactical flexibility for Carlo Ancelotti that Marcelo wouldn’t be able to provide.

A simple switch with David Alaba in central defense would make for an effective change when the team needs more attacking intent down the left. Nacho too isn’t bad at putting balls into the box or making attacking sprints, though very rare. Moreover, playing Nacho and Eder Militao as center-backs with Dani Carvajal and David Alaba playing out wide is a perfectly natural defensive lineup to go with. And, on any given day, it would be a better option than deploying an out-of-favor Marcelo.

Moreover, Nacho has been very promising in the central role in his last games. He was Real Madrid’s best outfield player in a humiliating Copa del Rey exit at hands of Athletic Club and he also put in a decent shift the previous Copa game against Elche. I think it is most likely that Nacho would feature in the starting lineup against PSG in the second leg, it is only left to see where in the defense he plays. Either way, he needs to step up with all his Madridismo energy if we are to make this turnaround.