The return of Eden Hazard on Tuesday night coincided with the most active and direct Marco Asensio we have seen since he recovered from a serious knee injury. At last, Zinedine Zidane has been able to have his ideal front three on the pitch at the same time: Hazard on the left, Karim Benzema as the striker, and Asensio on the right.
The Belgian was brought to Real Madrid to be the club's new star, and the hope was that the Hazard-Benzema-Asensio attack would take Los Blancos back to their glory days of the three consecutive Champions League triumphs under the French coach.
Zidane was able to line up the Hazard-Benzema-Asensio trident in their first pre-season friendly in the summer of 2019, when Real Madrid faced Bayern Munich in the United States, but he hasn't been able to have them play together since then.
In the next match Luka Jovic came in for Asensio, but the Spaniard ended up suffering a very serious injury to his left knee. Suddenly, Zidane's plans were thrown out the window.
Yet, Asensio was the first to fall injured, as the end of October saw Hazard kicked by international team-mate Thomas Meunier when Real Madrid played Paris Saint-Germain at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. And the truth is that since then, it can be considered that the Belgian has not played. That left Benzema as the only member of the front three available.
Upon his return, Hazard once again picked up a knock, this time away at Levante, and he hasn't been healthy since, despite undergoing surgery on his ankle in that time. In August, the ghost of the former Chelsea star was present at the Etihad Stadium.
Away at Borussia Monchengladbach on Tuesday, Hazard and Asensio were on the same pitch for 14 minutes, which is just the third official match this has happened in. The first was an eight-minute spell against Valencia, a day when Asensio showed what he could do post-injury, and then 22 minutes against Manchester City at the Etihad as Los Blancos chased the game.
Together, that doesn't even add up to one half of football: 44 minutes. It is very little time to be able to analyse what this trident could mean for Zidane and Real Madrid, but there's no denying that it makes things more exciting for the Frenchman.
Vinicius and Rodrygo left behind
Now, at last, Zidane can include them in his plans. This is the front three that Real Madrid hope will cause problems for Inter, with Los Blancos needing to pick up at least four points from their two matches against the Nerazzurri - and ideally it will be six.
Their recovery, with Hazard set to get some more minutes against Huesca this weekend, puts them where Zidane wanted them to be. In the time they have been unavailable - more than a year - the two players who have failed to capitalise are Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes, the two Brazilians who haven't been able to make Real Madrid forget about Hazard and Asensio.
Vinicius' last two matches have brought about a lot of doubts. Too many. The absence of Hazard left him free to play on the left wing, his natural position, but he has hardly made any progress compared to the player he was a year ago. Just when it looked like he might be about to take a step forward, the coronavirus pandemic arrived.
In Rodrygo's case, his appearances are typically short cameos and are not regular. Zidane's message has always been one of caution with the two Brazilians. If Hazard and Asensio are about to become fixed names in the XI, Vinicius and Rodrygo will have to be patient.
Source: Marca / Miguel Ángel Lara