Last Sunday’s 4-0 thrashing at the hands of FC Barcelona highlighted Real Madrid’s crisis on the bench. Karim Benzema’s absence due to injury led to some questionable tactical decisions by manager Carlo Ancelotti, who was acting as if he had no options despite having a full bench.
Instead of calling up a direct replacement for Benzema, Ancelotti decided to use Luka Modric as a false nine, throwing off the balance of the entire squad. The question is, why didn’t he opt to start the likes of Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Mariano Diaz?
Gareth Bale appears to be fully fit, but it has become clear that his priority is not Real Madrid. The manager did give him a few chances at the start of the season, but the relationship appears to have soured since. Ancelotti has clearly left the Welshman on the bench even when he had been available in the past. On Sunday, he was initially part of the matchday squad but surprisingly pulled out on the day of El Clasico, and did not even appear on the bench.
Meanwhile, Eden Hazard is yet another injury-ridden player. The difference is, the Belgian is determined to prove himself to the Real Madrid faithful. Unfortunately, his body is not cooperating. He is unable to string games together whenever he is fit and even then his quality is overshadowed by the likes of Rodrygo, Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior.
Luka Jovic on the other hand, should have been the best replacement in the centre-forward position. However, he has not made any impact in the rare occasions in the past when he was given minutes on the pitch. Understandably, Ancelotti is not confident about bringing him on board for such an important match.
Mariano Diaz is another direct replacement, and was eventually introduced late in the game. However, he simply does not seem to have the quality expected from a Real Madrid striker despite his willingness to prove himself like Hazard.
In the end, the absence of Benzema showed how much the squad relies on the Frenchman, and perhaps highlights the reason why they are desperately going after Kylian Mbappe and even Erling Haaland to bolster the front line.