When Dani Carvajal went down injured for Real Madrid in the Champions League final against Liverpool, it seemed as if history was about to repeat itself, seeing the Spaniard ruled out of another international tournament.
In 2016, the Real Madrid right-back sustained a similar injury in the buildup to the European Championships during his side’s Champions League final clash with Atletico Madrid. The scan results showed that he would not recover in time for Spain’s campaign in France.
Carvajal and Spain have been given the good news that the injury is not so severe this time with doctors suggesting that, with careful rehabilitation, he will only miss the first two or three games of the 2018 World Cup.
His absence means that Julen Lopetegui will have a difficult decision to make regarding who will take Carvajal’s place whilst he recovers. The competition lies between Sergi Roberto and Alvaro Odriozola.
However, despite Odriozola being the younger, and less experienced player, he has showcased through his performances in a Real Sociedad shirt and with Spain during recent qualifiers, why it should be him and not Roberto who should be given the right-back position whilst Carvajal recovers.
As things stand, the 22-year-old is being carefully monitored by Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United: three of the biggest teams in the world.
Odriozola was part of the Real Sociedad side that took apart Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid in a 3-0 demolition last season. Using his pace as a defensive asset, he nullified the attacking potency of Atletico’s right-wing for the entire game.
Yet there is so much more to his game than just defending. The Spaniard has shown that he is just as adept at attacking. With his speed, he can provide crosses by making galloping runs down the right wing.
His pace on the ball has earned him the nickname of ‘The Flash’. Yet it’s his crossing ability that is more dazzling to the eye with an 81% accuracy at finding players in the box.
He is also superb at shooting from outside the box. This was clear in his performance against Switzerland on Sunday night where the 22-year-old scored an impressive volley in his national team’s 1-1 draw.
Odriozola vs Roberto
Compared to Odriozola, Sergi Roberto is not a traditional right back.
For both Spain and his domestic side Barcelona, he often strays into a more central position and plays as an additional midfielder.
Yes, Roberto is an experienced player and has often shown up in the big games. But Spain do not need another attacking player, they have plenty of those already. What they need is a solid defender and Odriozola just might be the fit in Carvajal’s absence.
The Sociedad youngster has shown that he can maintain a defensive position, and is good at using his pace to make attacking runs, whilst having the speed to ensure the gap he has left behind is not exploited.
While he can slot into the midfield position, he normally moves up and down the right wing and provides defensive stability for his team.
Taking the risk?
Come June 15th, Julen Lopetegui has time to decide whether he will pick Roberto or Odriozola for the right back position. But it is clear who will suit the role better.
Despite Roberto being the more experienced right back, Odriozola possesses a natural flair for defending.
If he is picked, he could thrive in the position.
Who will play for Spain at right back? Alvaro Odriozola or Sergi Roberto? Let us know by commenting below.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group D in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.
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