As part of his Real Madrid reconstruction, Santiago Solari will have to manage the side for the time being without Casemiro, who has been a fundamental player for the past three years.
The Brazilian will be out for around a month with a sprained ankle so the new coach must seek a medium-term solution in a very delicate position.
Against Celta Vigo, when the Brazilian exited in the 22nd minute, Dani Ceballoswas chosen to fill the void, but that was an emergency solution made in the heat of battle.
In Vigo, using Ceballos there worked but now there is more time to reflect and analyse who the ideal man to replace Casemiro is.
Zinedine Zidane almost always used Toni Kroos to replace him when he was injured and that worked well.
Of the 18 absences for Casemiro through injury, 14 saw him replaced by the German in a role he has admitted isn’t his ideal one, although he has the quality to excel in it.
However, it should also be noted that he hasn’t been at his best this year when used in that position under Julen Lopetegui.
“I’m not a Casemiro,” was the complaint from Kroos when he was on international duty last time out.
With Kroos in this role under Zidane, Real Madrid won eight games and drew six of the 14 in which he replaced Casemiro, with Mateo Kovacic used alongside the German on nine occasions for support.
On occasion, Kovacic played that holding role himself and acquitted himself admirably.
Los Blancos defeated Sporting CP 2-1 in the Champions League and Atletico 3-0 in the last LaLiga Santander derby at the Estadio Vicente Calderon in that system.
Only once did Zidane opt for Marcos Llorente, in theory the most natural replacement.
It was last season away to Espanyol and Real Madrid lost 1-0, which to date is the only defeat for them without Casemiro on the field due to injury.
In total, they have missed him 18 times and picked up 11 wins, six draws and one defeat during that time, scoring 53 goals and conceding 21.
When all of the internationals return, Solari will have a decision to make and it will most likely be between Ceballos and Kroos.
The Spaniard performed very well at Balaidos and scored too, while he also shone in Zagreb with the national team, proving that he is fine form.
A player with fantastic technique, he is enjoying the confidence of the new coaches this season after Zidane‘s departure.
The Frenchman never used him when Casemiro was injured.
For Zidane, he viewed Ceballos as a more offensive player and wasn’t prepared to play him in that deeper role.
The possibilities of Fede Valverde or Llorente stepping in have been practically ruled out, at least in the important games for Los Blancos both in the league and in Europe.
Their chance may come in the Copa del Rey on December 6 against Melilla, but it does not seem that Solari will use these two players in that role for now.
Casemiro hopes to be back in time for the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, where Real Madrid will look to retain their title for a third straight year.