At first sight, Real Madrid’s loss of James Rodriguez for an estimated two months is a significant blow for the Spanish giants in their La Liga and Champions League challenges.
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The Colombian midfielder is enjoying a fine first season in Spain, with a healthy tally of eight goals and seven assists in La Liga along with four more goals in cup competitions, rapidly establishing himself as an integral member of Carlo Ancelotti’s plans.
— Gareth Bale (@GarethBale11) February 5, 2015
However, taking into account the bigger picture, the absence of the 23-year-old is something Los Blancos can quite easily overcome – and it might even work to their advantage.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive to suggest so, injuries can sometimes act as a blessing to a large squad over the course of a long season, preventing staleness from creeping into an overly familiar starting line-up and helping to avoid the ever-present dangers – especially at a club like Madrid – of selection controversies.
Take, for example, the current absence of Luka Modric, who was in superb form before suffering a thigh injury in November. Back then, he was one of the men making his team tick, and his injury was regarded as a severe setback.
However, Modric’s unavailability allowed Isco to become an undisputed member of the starting XI (he had previously only started five league games) and he has responded with a magnificent series of performances which has led many observers to suggest he is now Real’s second most important player behind Cristiano Ronaldo.
When Modric is back, however, the debate would have opened up again: the Croat is clearly worthy of a place in the team, but who would make way? Isco, despite his brilliant form? Clearly not Gareth Bale, even though he has been oft-criticised in recent weeks, so maybe even James himself?
Now, Ancelotti does not have that conundrum, and Modric will be able to slip back into his former position alongside Toni Kroos with Isco shifting wide to replace James.
In the meantime, the current absence of both Modric and James can be covered by two more high-quality players itching for the chance to do exactly what Isco has done by proving their value to the team: Sami Khedira and Asier Illarramendi, who have barely played this season.
And don’t forget Jese Rodriguez, who looked so impressive coming off the bench in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over Sevilla.
James’s injury will give him more chance to play and prevent him from growing frustrated on the sidelines.
So Madrid fans need not despair.
True, they cannot afford any more injuries – particularly in defence – but their bid for silverware may just be about to go from strength to strength.
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