Odegaard returns but with few opportunities available to him

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Back from injury, the Norweigan midfielder will likely be in the squad for Valencia. But he will find it difficult to find a place in a Real Madrid team that is now reaching cruising speed.

Martin Odegaard has made a full recovery from the muscle injury that prevented him from training and playing for the last three weeks. The 21-year-old had already completed his return to full training before Inter Milan’s visit to Madrid midweek, but Zinedine Zidane felt it would have been too soon to include him in the squad for the game against the Serie A club.

However, all indications are that Odegaard will travel to Valencia this Sunday. The Norweigan midfielder will no doubt start on the bench, but may have the opportunity for minutes depending on how the game is going for Zidane.

The French coach was key to orchestrating Odegaard’s early return to Madrid after completing one of a two-year loan agreement at Real Sociedad. After an impressive season with La Real, the plan for both the player and Madrid was that he would see out the second year in San Sebásitan, as per the verbal agreement between the clubs (nothing was ever signed regarding a second year).

However, impressed by Odegaard’s development last season, Zidane asked that he be brought back to Madrid, knowing that James Rodríguez was on the verge of leaving the club.

Odegaard has had two starts this season
Zidane’s request was justified at the season’s opening when he gave the 21-year-old two consecutive starts against Real Sociedad and Real Betis. However, he was unable to shine and was subbed off in both games. Now the problem for Odegaard will be finding a place in a team that has begun to reach cruising speed.

Following setbacks against Cádiz and Shakhtar, Madrid have picked up three wins and a draw in their last four games, with twelve goals scored and six conceded. After experimenting with his team at the beginning of the season, Zidane now seems to have found his ideal eleven, with Fede Valverde, Casemiro and Toni Kroos operating in the middle. The three were chosen to start against Barcelona, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Inter Milan, with Luka Modric’s only start coming against Huesca, where the Croatian was picked ahead of Kroos.

Casemiro, Valverde and Kroos
In the current context, Casemiro and Valverde have become indispensable due to their intensity and contribution in both defense and attack, meaning only one position is perhaps contestable. That could rise to two positions on the occasions when Zidane opts for four in midfield.

While that doesn’t seem to be an option the Madrid coach is considering right now — as he’s betting heavily on the attacking trident made up of Marco Asensio, Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard — it may not always be ruled out.

The French coach did play Odegaard as an attacking midfielder in a four-man midfield diamond against Real Sociedad and Betis. But it is a position in which the Norwegian finds it difficult to shine — playing too many minutes with his back to the goal and with the ball at his feet less than he would like.

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