Zinedine Zidane has started 21 players this season

Carvajal has played the most minutes, followed by Sergio Ramos and Keylor Navas, as the French coach adheres strictly to his policy of rotation.

Injuries and an inauspicious start to the season have not knocked Zinedine Zidane’s commitment to the policy that has delivered seven titles in his year-and-a-half long spell as the manager of Real Madrid. For the Frenchman, rotations are non-negotiable.

Zidane continued to rotate against Alavés

Zidane shuffled his pack once again ahead of the 1-2 defeat of Alavés at Mendizorroza, despite the fact that Toni Kroos remained in Madrid with muscle problems, and that Los Blancos could not afford to slip further behind table-toppers Barcelona. Luka Modric and Gareth Bale dropped to the bench, ostensibly with an eye to the trip to Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday. Lucas Vázquez replaced Bale on the right flank, while Dani Ceballos made his first start for Real Madrid in the place of Modric.

Ceballos played like a veteran, scoring two goals, winning the ball eight times, and completing 92% of his passes. His presence in the starting XI adds weight to Zidane’s statement that “for me, they are all starters.”

Ceballos becomes Madrid’s 21st starter

In Mendizorroza, Ceballos became the 21st player to start for Real Madrid in the nascent 2017-18 season. Only three Madrid players are yet to start a match: Jesús Vallejo, who has been sidelined by injury, 18-year-old Achraf, and third-choice goalkeeper Luca Zidane.

Dani Carvajal has featured the most prominently. The full-back is the only player to have been on the pitch for every minute of the season (900). The 25-year-old from Leganés is the undisputed owner of the right-back berth, and the extension of his contract until 2022 reflects that. Zidane has not yet handed a debut to Achraf, Carvajal’s natural deputy. However, the youngster has already featured for the Moroccan national team. He can expect opportunities for Madrid in the Copa del Rey.

“I’m not worried [that Carvajal is playing too much] because he is prepared, he is physically strong,” Zidane said last week, “He is able to play a lot of matches. At the moment he is fine and he can continue playing.”

The statistics that show the contribution of the Madrid squad underline Isco’s importance to the team. In the first ten matches of the 2016-17 season, the former-Málaga midfielder started just twice, playing for a total of 194 minutes. This campaign, Isco has started eight of Madrid’s ten matches. He showed his class once again in the victory over Alavés. The most difficult part for Zidane will be managing the right-hand side of the pitch.

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