Two weeks ago, Real Madrid were enjoying a positive moment sitting three points ahead of Barcelona and eagerly awaiting the imminent return of Eden Hazard. Many guessed the Belgian would offer the vital touch that would permit them to clear the forthcoming Manchester City and El Clasico sized hurdles. Fourteen days afterwards and reality has struck the team with a brutal blow — Hazard, appearing his ever influential self (if a little reserved) — is back on the injury table while the club stumbled against Guardiola’s men in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16.

There’s a sense of inevitability in terms of that which might potentially follow, the spooky similarity to last year’s ‘week of hell’ and just how disastrous that unfolded has lots of fans despairing for the destiny of the team this season. This is a moment of truth for the club. Zidane will need to manoeuvre through this period without one of his most valuable assets. Hazard is arguably Real Madrid’s most influential forward and his absence will hinder the team’s offensive capacity going forward. And that was apparent against Manchester City, in which there were challenges to create premium quality opportunities. Having a potential make-or-break match against their rivals on Sunday, Zidane and his staff need to reassess and decide at the best solution tactically. The asian handicap live betting market is backing Madrid to turn this one around in Manchester.

Looking back at the season, it is very important to return in November to the match against Galatasaray. That game seemed to be a significant turning point. Los Merengues had fantastically dispatched their opponents with a 6-0 scoreline that was remarkable in its performance, and at the heart of that was Brazilian wonderkid Rodrygo Goes. Clinical finishing, composure, liveliness, and sharpness of the youngster was a sight to behold as he registered what stays the only hat-trick this season of the team.

The template that led to a few of the dominant displays during the year was expected to be the same. The response appeared self-evident. Field a midfield of Casemiro-Valverde-Kroos and at least two conventional wingers – Rodrygo and Hazard at the time. This group composition provided a balance that was missing from Real Madrid for quite a very long time. Valverde’s existence in midfield has been a well-documented revelation. The box-to-box abilities of the Urugyuan are crucial in boosting the verticality of the team without sacrificing any defensive coverage. And while Kroos’ stabilizing distribution and revived attacking participation made him the ideal candidate to fulfill in the next midfield slot (with Casemiro being a lock), Modric is a feasible alternative that has been shown to be reliable and capable.

So the rule seemed simple: field Casemiro, Valverde, and one from among Kroos or Modric. The midfield had to be supported by an energetic, creative, and direct attacking trident. If they get this balance right, the asian bookies belief in the side is valid. Despite his intermittent misfiring in certain games, Benzema remains undoubtedly the ideal option as the centre forward (to not mention more time should not be given to Jovic and Mariano). Hazard and Rodrygo appeared as the most appealing option for the wings especially given Bale’s irregularity and Vinicius’ struggles on this side. In Hazard’s absence, Vinicius would be the most suitable option on the left wing.

It appears despite the stellar results, Zidane has yet to go all-in on this line-up. The manager, instead, has attempted to construct the frame around Isco’s controller allowing style. The Spaniard is now an integral part of the present, primary lineup. And there are serious questions as to whether this is in the best interest of the team. Isco is a polarizing figure and was for the majority of his career. His quality is not up for debate. What Isco brings to the table is beautiful touch, control, and ball retention — however, the issue has always been whether these are sufficient to compensate for the stalling effect he has because of his own lack of directness and vision. There is no one right answer but there is an alternative that is well worth pursuing.

Zidane was supplied with a formula which may be the most effective method of optimizing the roster at hand and has unbelievable potential. Going back to the formation that looked promising along with games in that interval could be needed. At a minimum, it merits further exploration. Beyond this match, the season might depend on whether or not Real Madrid are prepared to revert to that which appeared to be working.