Six games in 19 days can take its toll. But Thibaut Courtois, Raphael Varane, Ferland Mendy, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema all managed 540 minutes and they are the five survivors of that intense period, coming through without a single minute’s rest.

Zinedine Zidane backed his core to pull Real Madrid through a tough run. Without any injury or suspension setbacks, the coach didn’t see fit to leave them out.

Their inclusions in each game shows Zidane’s commitment to getting the club out of the crisis they were on the verge of. The rotations were put on hold, and he has squeezed everything possible out of his biggest stars.

Only 16 of his 24 players have had minutes since December 6, and he hasn’t made more than three changes in any of the last six games.

Courtois’ continued inclusion is less of a surprise as he has played all 21 games across all competitions this season, already accumulating 1,890 minutes. But in other seasons Zidane has given the backup goalkeeper more opportunities by now. Continue reading

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