During the international break, injuries can happen. The impact can change the course of a season for clubs, and one team that has reasons to worry are Real Madrid because of Vinicius Junior. After leaving Brazil's 2-1 loss to Colombia with an injury, further testing has determined that the winger has a torn muscle in his thigh. This is an injury that could sideline him for up to three months but will certainly end his involvement for Los Blancos and Brazil for the remainder of 2023.
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With quite the title race underway in La Liga between Girona, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, this is a seismic change to things as now Madrid will have to cope without Vini Jr. just as he was rounding into form for the team. With six goals and three assists in only 973 minutes this season, the Brazillian has been electric when on the pitch and Los Blancos could be in trouble without him for an extended period of time.
Who could replace him?
While the short answer is no one, the attacking load has to fall to someone, and that someone is 20-year-old Jude Bellingham. Nursing a shoulder injury, the Englishman is enjoying one of the best debut seasons in Real Madrid history with 13 goals and three assists in all competitions, but expecting him to keep this pace would spell doom for Carlo Ancelotti's men. Bellingham's 13 goals have come from an expected goals total of only 6.61 in all competitions and while good finishers can consistently outperform their xG, doubling it over the course of a season in a high-volume position as an attacking midfielder is unheard of.
If Bellingham does slow down, that's where concern starts to build for Madrid. Rodrygo is also rounding into form but he's not as effective next to Joselu as he is next to Vini. Jr. leading the line. Not only do the two Brazilians have a clear understanding of what the other wants to do but Vini Jr'.s pace and shot selection keeps defenses honest for Rodrygo to do the unpredictable. Looking at Vini Jr.'s shot map, he takes calculated shots in good positions instead of just peppering a keeper from outside the box.
Joselu has been a fine finisher but being more of an in-the-box poacher, he doesn't bring that level of threat to keep a defense honest, meaning there will be less space for his teammates. In most matches, Real Madrid will still have enough quality to compete but to win the title, they'll have to knock off top six sides which is when they begin to run into issues.
How many injuries are too many?
While a team of Real Madrid's caliber are expected to compete at the highest level even with injuries, a look is needed at their current injury list. Alongiside Vini Jr., Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao, Aurelien Tchouameni, Dani Ceballos, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Arda Guler and Eduardo Camavinga are all sidelined. Most teams would struggle with just a few of these guys sidelined but Real Madrid have been able to compete with them missing time.
It does feel like Vini Jr.'s injury is one too many for Los Blancos, but let's take a look at their stats with and without the Brazillian in the XI.
|Stat||With Vini Jr||Without Vini Jr|
Given the small sample size of only four matches, it's hard to draw too much from the data, especially as a game without Vini Jr was played facing Atletico Madrid, but Los Blancos are almost scoring a goal per game less without the Brazillian while allowing .75 more goals per game without him available. It's a reason why their inclusion in the title race could be over if that doesn't change in upcoming matches.
One positive is having already cruised through group stage play in Champions League, only La Liga play really matters to Real Madrid for now. Facing Cadiz, Granada, Real Betis, Villarreal and Alaves in their next five matches, they are ones that Real Madrid should win but these are also teams that have troubled Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, so they also can't be taken lightly. The defensive worries are where it can get tough as if Real Madrid concede an early goal, it will be even more difficult to come back from it without the Brazilian. Nott facing a true title contender until February in the Madrid derby vs Atletico, if a significant injury was going to happen to a member of the squad, now is the best time for it to happen, but the loss of Vini Jr. alongside the hits that Ancelotti and Madrid have already taken could prove to be too much int he long run.