Real Madrid CF successfully completed a gruelling week that saw them eliminating Liverpool FC from the UEFA Champions league and defeating FC Barcelona in "El Clasico" in La Liga. The three crucial games took place in the span of a week, and while the players emerged victorious, they are exhausted.
Manager Zinedine Zidane warned that his players are already at their "physical limit" after claiming the 2-1 victory against bitter rivals Barcelona in El Clasico on Saturday. This much was evident in the second leg of their quarter-final clash against Liverpool on Wednesday. While Jurgen Klopp's men kept the intensity high, Real Madrid players were content to park the bus and advance thanks to a 3-1 first leg advantage.
Zidane has been left with a limited number of players to rotate due to the number of injuries suffered by first team players. As such, those who can play are left exhausted and running on empty. Unfortunately, Zidane can't take too many risks by resting key players this late in the season. They are on the home stretch and may lose out on winning the double if they make a single mistake.
Real Madrid has the double-legged UEFA Champions League semi-finals against Chelsea FC coming up plus a potential final if they advance. Aside from that, they can't afford to drop a single point in La Liga. With eight league games left, they need to take home all the available points and hope that leaders Atletico slip up. Only a single point separates the city rivals at the moment.
Midfield duo Toni Kroos and Luka Modric have both been squeezed dry of every inch of their energy this season, and Zidane will need to find a way to lessen their load in the coming matches. Karim Benzema has been playing with broken fingers since January, opting to soldier on instead of missing games if he gets surgery. Meanwhile, Vinicius Junior is also at his physical limit, having been relied upon to provide energy and speed in Real Madrid's attack.
Marcelo, Isco and Mariano Diaz came on as substitutes in El Clasico, and Zidane will probably need to rely on them even more in the upcoming games. As the French manager said, all their remaining games are to be treated as finals. Hence, there won't be any opportunity to field a weaker lineup against lesser opponents because every upcoming match is crucial.
Fede Valverde proved this point during the UCL match against Liverpool on Wednesday, after images of his swollen foot leaked just minutes before he joined the squad on the pitch.
Captain Sergio Ramos, who has suffered a muscle injury as well as testing positive for COVID-19, is notably missing in the closing stages of the season. Lucas Vazquez, Eden Hazard, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane are also sidelined indefinitely. It does not help that Nacho Fernandez and Casemiro picked up suspensions, leaving Zidane with even fewer options to call up against Getafe this weekend.
It may be time for Zidane to look into his Castilla lineup, and force himself out of his comfort zone. He has been known to rely on his tried and tested players with massive success, but his flexibility as a manager will truly be tested in the upcoming weeks.