Eden Hazard is edging close to his return for Real Madrid. The Belgian winger has been training in full with the rest of the group since before the first leg of the Champions League quarter final against Liverpool, with his muscle injury – the latest in a string of injury issues this season – now very much behind him.
Hazard’s return is set to put Zinedine Zidane in a difficult situation selection-wise. Starting Hazard means he will have to make the difficult decision of whether to drop Marco Asensio or Vinicius, who, along with Karim Benzema, have been among the most in-form players on the team over the past month (and the architects of the 12-game unbeaten streak of 10 wins and 2 draws). Even Fede Valverde, a surprise starter in the Clásico, is affected by the situation.
Vinicius: his best moment at Real Madrid
Vinicius was catapulted back into the limelight with his brace against Liverpool, becoming the second youngest Madrid player to score in a Champions League tie, at 20 years and 268 days.
“Those on the outside talk, I keep working,” the Brazilian said humbly after the game. To celebrate each of his goals, he kissed the badge, a gesture which was his way of saying, “I’m staying here”, in clear reference to the reports that were linking him with the Mbappé operation.
He was also one of the best players on the pitch in the Clásico, posing a real danger in the first half and winning the free-kick that led to Kroos’ goal that made it 2-0. However, at Anfield on Wednesday, he went unnoticed in a game in which Madrid had very little possession.
Asensio: scoring important goals
Asensio, meanwhile, is playing his best football since he returned from a knee operation at the end of last season after a lengthy lay-off. He has scored four goals over the past few games he has played, two of which came in the Champions League, against Atalanta and against Liverpool in the first leg of the quarter final. In total, he has already netted six goals this season.
While his market value may have fallen to €35 million from its €90 million peak in 2018, he remains a strategically important player for Madrid and Zidane. Although more is still expected of him. He lost his place to Valverde in the Clásico and at Anfield he looked very tired in defense.
Hazard’s return causes Zidane selection headache
The return of Hazard, which is just around the corner, will force Zidane to make some difficult decisions. Perhaps rather unfairly, Vinicius will be the one who is sacrificed since the Belgian prefers to play on the left wing, which is the only side that the Brazilian can work with potency.
In the mere eight games in which Hazard has been a starter this season, he has formed a trident with Benzema and Asensio on six occasions, and twice with the Frenchman and Lucas Vázquez, but not once with Vinicius. With Madrid going strong without him, Hazard’s comeback may serve to be more of a destabilizing factor than a positive one.