There has not been a lot to shout about so far this season for Real Madrid apart from performances in the Champions League, with a massive victory at Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday sealing their place in the quarter-finals. Despite this, Lucas Vazquez is having his best season yet in senior football and if Zinedine Zidane picks his starting XI on merit, then the the Galician should be one of the first names on the team sheet.
Seven goals and eight assists in all competitions is a fantastic return at this point of the campaign and it also means that Vazquez has the best minutes-to-assist ratio in Europe’s top five Leagues. When you compare these statistics with a player like Isco, who was one of Los Blancos’ most crucial players last season and has played 588 minutes more this time round, you can see just how well he has been playing with Isco only managing six goals and six assists.
It is not only his attacking contribution that makes Vazquez such a pivotal player. With Cristiano Ronaldo occupying more central positions, there can be an imbalance in Madrid’s line-ups, but playing the 26-year-old in a 4-4-2 solves that problem, as he provides natural width and allows the Portuguese to be a penalty-box predator, which was seen in the 4-0 win over Alaves and Wednesday’s night’s win in Paris. Vazquez is also a very hard worker and is willing to not leave his team too open defensively down his flank.
The problem with this, of course, is that playing in a formation that suits Vazquez means that the famous midfield three of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro would be disbanded, which is something Zidane would not be willing to do in the big games unless one of them is not fully fit, which was the case in Paris. Therefore, the former Espanyol man must settle to play in League games and takes his chances when they come, which he is definitely doing at the moment.
The energy and dynamism that can be seen in Vazquez’s play, along with his creative talents, mark him out as a player who can make a difference. As well as impacting the first leg of the Champions League last 16 against PSG from the bench, he was pivotal as a starter in the second leg. He not only made the team stronger defensively, helping pin PSG back, but also assisted Ronaldo for the first goal with an excellent cross and then sprinted halfway up the pitch to make the cross that led to the second.
Even if he does not start, the Galician is going to be vital for Zidane’s side for the remainder of the season. If the starting line-up was based on form, then Vazquez would be a starter in the latter stages of the Champions League, but whether that will be the case with a fully fit midfield remains to be seen. Much like Angel di Maria in the 2014 season, he provides a crucial balance to his team’s play, and if Vazquez continues knocking on the door, Zidane might just have to open it up for him when it matters the most.
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