Real Madrid CF

Marco Asensio's return to form can be catalyst for Real Madrid in title race

Max Cooper
Apr 3, 2021, 6:15 PM GMT+1
Marco Asensio is starting to look back to his best
Marco Asensio is starting to look back to his best | Denis Doyle/Getty Images

It's been a frustrating few years for Marco Asensio and Real Madrid.

Since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in July 2019, the Spaniard has faced an almost vertical uphill battle to recapture his glistening best form in the white jersey of Los Blancos.

Bless Marco Asensio GIF by Real Madrid - Find & Share on GIPHY

The three goals in nine appearances he managed at the end of last season hinted that he could still have an impact for Zinedine Zidane, but this year's lack of contribution to a team unable to carry passengers has concerned many onlookers.

But Zidane now appears to have conjured a system which amplifies the 25-year-old's strengths, and has led many to believe that the real Marco Asensio has once again stood up - just when the Frenchman needs him most.

This time, he is not the fancy winger of old. Asensio is a central striker, and looks the part. Zidane has got the Spanish champions playing in a fluid 3-5-2 formation, with the in-form Spaniard partnering Karim Benzema at the top of the pitch.

In fairness to Zidane, it makes a lot of sense. Wanting to get the best out of a misfiring player? Stick him next to the most selfless forward on the planet, and watch him come alive. That is exactly what's happened with Asensio, who, in his centre-forward role, was on a hot streak of two goals in as many games heading into the Eibar clash on Saturday.

The forward was intent on adding to his tally from the off, hitting the crossbar with a curling free kick, and then finding the net from close range, only for his intelligent back-heel to be cruelly ruled out for a missed offside call. Fair, but unfair.

Asensio did get his goal on 40 minutes, reading Casemiro's clever through ball to perfection, taking a touch of dreams to power beyond the defender and place a stunning clipped shot beyond Marko Dimitrovic.

That strike was the ideal way to round off a flawless opening 45 minutes for the Spain international, and put Madrid within three points of rivals Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga.

But the returning star was not finished yet. He came out swinging in the second half, forcing Dimitrovic into drastic action to tip a bending, dipping long-range strike over the crossbar.

The free, floating striker role played perfectly into Asensio's hands, as he was able to drift wide and hug the right flank when Madrid looked to double up on the bedraggled full-back, or hare in behind to chase down one of Benzema's many successful flick-ons.

The only bum note of the afternoon was his substitution on the hour mark. Zidane is clearly determined to keep Asensio fresh and wants to avoid the risk of an injury relapse or burnout, and so he took the decision to bring on Rodrygo in his place.

The forward appeared disappointed to have come off, but hopefully he can see the bigger picture here.

After years of flattering to deceive and fighting fitness issues, Asensio is now threatening to become the star he should be - and just in time too, as Madrid head into the home stretch of this dramatic title race.