La Liga Review considers the importance of Gabi Heinze to Real Madrid, and wonders whether the team might not have lost to Betis on Saturday if Schuster had been prepared to risk the Argentine full back in place of Marcelo...
It was a very angry Bernd Schuster (is there another one?) who stormed in to the press zone after Real Madrid’s defeat to Betis on Saturday evening and who told reporters “You want to know what went wrong out there? Ask the players! They were the one out there on the pitch!”
However, if the blame lay with the players out on the pitch, the solution may be found amongst the list of players who didn’t play on Saturday: Gabi Heinze.
Schuster was most upset at the manner in which both goals were conceded and the fact that both goals were startlingly to Almeria’s a week earlier is what really riled the German coach. The formula for scoring against Madrid seems quite straightforward as the opposition seeks to exploit weaknesses in Madrid’s full back positions.
For both of Betis’s goals on Saturday a wide player was able to exploit Salgado’s lack of pace to deliver a ball from the left flank, aimed at Madrid’s far post. On both occasions the left back, Marcelo, was on the wrong side of his player and beaten easily to the header, first by Edu and then just four minutes later by Mark Gonzalez.
In Salgado’s case, the Madrid stalwart’s knees are finally showing the signs of his many years service and whilst the heart is as willing as always, the legs can no longer keep up. As for Marcelo, the reverse is true, and it is a lack of experience that lets the youngster down – his positioning exposing him against Betis. The Brazilian full back had a dreadful evening; at fault for both goals, picking up a yellow card that will lead to a cumulative suspension and an injury to his left leg that could rule him out for several weeks.
Thankfully, for Schuster, Madrid will be able to count upon the returning Gabi Heinze for Wednesdays Champions League clash at Roma. Heinze has been out through injury since the start of January and may have been fit for the game against Betis, however Schuster opted to save him for Wednesday game in Rome: with the benefit of hindsight a costly decision.
Heinze offers a great deal more defensively than Marcelo, his positioning far superior to the Brazilian’s and it is unlikely that he would allow himself to be beaten in the air quite so easily, and certainly not twice in succession.
In a season blighted by injury, Heinze has played nine times in La Liga for Madrid this season and Madrid have one on every single occasion. Furthermore, the Argentine defender has played in two Champions League fixtures for Madrid this season and drawn both away from home.
The statistics support Heinze’s return to the left back position and Schuster will also take heart from the fact that Real Madrid have never lost an away fixture in Rome in the Champions League.