3 lineups for Real Madrid to make Toni Kroos the No. 6

Real Madrid, Toni Kroos (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Toni Kroos (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /
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Real Madrid have an uphill task ahead of themselves, as they would look to overturn a one-goal deficit in the round of 16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain, with the home leg scheduled to be played at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on the 9th of March. But the club has to take on the Parisians without two of their main defensive players, Carlos Casemiro and Ferland Mendy, who are suspended for the second leg after accumulating three yellow cards each in the Champions League.

Both of them will be a huge miss in the all-important game, but the club has to field able replacements. While there is no real clarity in the case of the left-back position, Ancelotti might use Toni Kroos in place of the suspended Brazilian, in the second leg.

At the beginning of the season, it seemed like Antonio Blanco, who made a name for himself with few great performances, might be Casemiro’s backup. But after Eduardo Camavinga’s signing on the deadline day, Ancelotti saw the Frenchman as the second-choice defensive midfielder and used him as a pivot in the games where Casemiro was unavailable.

But Camavinga has performed well as a box-to-box midfielder when compared to his performances as a pivot. So it does make sense to use Kroos, a fantastic deep-lying playmaker, as the No. 6 against PSG. It does come with its own drawbacks, but given his experience and skill-set, Kroos can be a decent No. 6.

Imagining Kroos as our pivot against PSG, let us have a look at three formations that can accommodate the German as a No. 6, and also analyse who should be starting alongside Kroos. And this isn’t just restricted to the PSG game, as these systems can be used when Casemiro needs some rest or is suspended for a game.

Real Madrid
Real Madrid (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images) /

1. 4-3-3 with Modric, Kroos and Fede Valverde forming a midfield three

4-3-3 has been Carlo Ancelotti’s preferred formation for most of the games (not every game, and we will get back to that in the next slide), with Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric being the first-choice players for the system.

If the same system is used by Real Madrid against PSG, we can expect to see Fede Valverde enter the Starting XI. He might start as the RCM, with Luka Modric shifting towards the left and Toni Kroos lying at the base of the midfield three.

In every Clasico and even in the first leg against the Parisians, Casemiro was tasked with marking the legendary Leo Messi. Toni Kroos isn’t as strong and quick as Casemiro, and he can’t be himself if he has to keep thinking about Messi throughout the game. To make up for the Brazilian’s absence, we need a hard-working midfielder who can is a great ball winner and can also play well with the ball at his feet. And Fede Valverde just brings that to the table. Camavinga did have an edge over Valverde during earlier parts of the season, but things seem to have changed since Valverde’s goal against Barcelona this year.

The Uruguayan is primarily a ball-carrier, and he will definitely help the team help the ball progress the ball at a faster pace, either by passing or with short bursts of speed. Despite being a central midfielder, he often acts as a wide midfielder on the right, helping the right-back in defence. After the nightmarish first leg at Paris, Dani Carvajal would be very happy to have some support in the form of Fede in the second leg.

Each one of them is press-resistant, and it would be interesting to see how well they can bring the ball out of pressure, considering how poor Real Madrid were with the ball in the first leg. Valverde, Modric and Kroos did start together in some games under Zidane, in a 0-0 draw against Athletic Bilbao in December 2019, and in a 4-1 loss to Valencia in November 2020, where the Uruguayan was used as the No.6, and not Kroos. In this system, the positioning is different, and hopefully, the outcome can also be different.