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Just In: It's now or never for Vinicius [Details]

Thibaut Courtois, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Casemiro and Karim Benzema. These were the only starters who have retained their spot after the 1-0 defeat away to Real Mallorca, while Isco has returned to starting line-up in Real Madrid's last couple of games against Paris Saint-Germain and Alaves.

Eder Militao also started in last weekend's win at the Estadio de Mendizorroza, but the rest of the players from the Mallorca debacle - Alvaro Odriozola, James Rodriguez, Vinicius Junior and Luka Jovic - have not started since.

The Serbian striker has racked up just 38 minutes of game time since October 19, but he remains optimistic that his fortune will change.

"Zidane trusts me, eventually I will be able to have more minutes," Jovic recently acknowledged.

James, meanwhile, has played a paltry 12 minutes since Son Moix after coming on as a late substitute in Los Blancos' 1-0 win away at Galatasaray before picking up an injury, which he is still recovering from.

There is Odriozola, one of Real Madrid's worst performers on the Balearic Islands, compounded by his second-half sending off, has not featured since.

Despite the difficult situation that he is currently experiencing at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Vinicius has actually appeared more often than any of the three aforementioned players since the Mallorca defeat, playing a total of 57 minutes.

The reality is that Rodrygo Goes has won the starting spot on the right wing, which was up for debate coming into the season, and he has even surpassed his compatriot in terms of minutes played.

In the last couple of matches, things have been made tougher for Vinicius as Zinedine Zidane has opted to play a four-man midfield in order to bring Isco back into the side, leading to Benzema and either Eden Hazard or Gareth Bale starting in attack.

However, the injuries to Hazard and Bale mean that Vinicius is one of the favourites to accompany Benzema, as he hopes to recover the form that he showed in the 2018/19 campaign prior to his injury against Ajax.

The 19-year-old may have featured the most out of the four players highlighted in this piece, but 57 minutes in eight matches is still a poor return for a player who still has a long way to go if he wants to succeed at Real Madrid, something they recognise inside the club.

On Saturday lunchtime, Espanyol visit the Bernabeu in what could be a new starting point for Vinicius, so long as Zidane opts for a 4-3-3 system.

Without Hazard or Bale on the wings, Real Madrid are left with limited options as Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez and even James are all on the treatment table with the Belgian and Welshman, which could lead to Zidane playing Vinicius and Rodrygo alongside Benzema in attack.

Real Madrid have a very demanding schedule as they bring 2019 to a close, with five matches in a 16-day period, including El Clasico.

Thus, the matches against Espanyol and Club Brugge, with Los Blancos already having qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, could be defining moments for Vinicius as he looks to once again show the promise that he did last season.

It's now or never for Vinicius.

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