On the face of things, Real Madrid are in good shape to face Barcelona in the first Clasico of the season in two weeks time. Zinedine Zidane’s side have gone eight games without defeat and have kept pace with their Catalans at the top of the Spanish Liga table. Some might even have them as title favourites on recent form, with Barca struggling somewhat.
Form isn’t Real Madrid’s most pressing problem right now, though. Injuries have been piling up in recent weeks. At current count, no fewer than 16 players are affected by some sort of knock or injury, with a number of key figures doubtful for that first Clasico of the season in the not so distant future.
Eden Hazard is perhaps Zidane’s biggest concern ahead of that match. The Belgian was expected to return from injury in time to face Barcelona, but has suffered another setback that could see him sidelined. Then there’s Gareth Bale who is also in a race against his own fitness to feature. Despite recent controversies, the Welshman remains one of Real Madrid’s most potent players.
Marcelo has joined Bale and Hazard in the treatment room. The Brazilian had found a good vein of form in recent weeks and so his absence is another blow to Real Madrid at such a critical time of the season, although Ferland Mendy will be able to slot in at left back. The Frenchman has also found his way of late following his summer move from Lyon.
Sergio Ramos is another who is doubtful for the league match against Barcelona, while centre back partner Raphael Varane similarly a concern. Dani Carvjal, Alphonse Areola, Alvaro Odriozola, Casemiro, Mariano Diaz and Vinicius Junior all have issues of their own, and there’s the long-term injury to Marco Asensio.
Karim Benzema could also miss the clash with Barcelona. This would leave Real Madrid without their top scorer and spiritual leader. Ramos might be the one with the captain’s armband, but it’s the French striker who is the dynamo through which their play flows. Without Benzema, Real Madrid often lack direction, not to mention cutting edge in the final third.
Real Madrid have built some momentum in recent weeks. Barcelona are not without their own problems right now and so Zidane and his players will surely be confident of victory in the first Clasico of the season. But it’s not quite clear what players will actually make the pitch.
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