Injuries have robbed Real Madrid of defensive stability - now they need a striker more than ever if they are to outscore Europe's elite

Courtois Ancelotti Militao Real Madrid GFXGetty/GOAL

Eder Militao knew something was wrong immediately. Real Madrid's centre-back grimaced, pounded the ground, and yelled in pain after jamming his foot awkwardly into the San Mames turf. His knee popped, and a million social media doctors could tell this would be a long-term issue.

They were right. Militao is likely out for the season after tearing his ACL, Madrid's best defender missing for a whole campaign. Just three days earlier, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois sustained a knee injury of his own. He, too, probably won't return until the 2024-25 campaign. And at the wrong side of 30, there's reason to believe he might not be the same again.

Those two injuries leave Madrid with a pressing need for help. The goalkeeper issue has, to an extent, been addressed with the signing of Kepa Arrizabalaga from Chelsea, though question marks remain over his suitability for a team with Madrid's aspirations. Centre-back, meanwhile, will be covered for internally, with Antonio Rudiger set to step in alongside David Alaba while Nacho Fernandez offers cover.

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But the weakening of the Madrid defence has cast further light on the issue that has dominated the club's entire summer: the search for a new No.9. If Carlo Ancelotti can no longer rely on his world-class goalkeeper or his best centre-back, then there is chance he will need his forward players to step up and outscore their opponents, especially in the latter stages of the Champions League.

Los Blancos have been on the search for a new striker ever since Karim Benzema made the decision to leave and play in the Saudi Pro League. The assumption was that the disgruntled Kylian Mbappe would arrive from Paris Saint-Germain, but he, perhaps predictably, changed his mind, and will stay in France for at least another year.

Spain international Joselu has arrived, but the fact that he was left out of the line-up for Madrid's La Liga opener against Athletic Club confirms what most already knew about his suitability to lead the line. A truly elite striker is, then, required to shoulder the goalscoring load.