The last thing Real Madrid needed was to have such a bruising mid-week game against Sevilla with so many important fixtures ahead. Now they face a fight to get as many players back on the pitch as quickly as possible. The quick turn-around required between Wednesday night at the Bernabeu and Saturday afternoon at the Vicente Calderon leaves little time for rest and recovery. The club medical room would certainly have been a busy place to be in on Thursday morning.
Perhaps the most annoying feature of the game was the manner in which most of the injuries were sustained on the night. Many of these were the result of late tackles or excessive physical challenges which the match referee deemed worthy of only a yellow card as opposed to a straight red. Certainly in the latter part of the game in particular, it appeared that Sevilla players no longer bothered to try to hide the fact that many of their challenges were deliberately late and it's ironic that Marcelo collected a yellow card for a relatively innocuous challenge in the second half which means he misses the Atletico game.
It was pretty obvious right from the start that it was going to be one of those nights. From the moment Sergio Ramos got to his feet again after making a tackle in the opening minutes and was immediately seen to be holding his hamstring the signs were there that things may not go exactly according to plan. Having been replaced virtually without hesitation by the management, it was clear that this action had been taken as more than just a precaution. To make a substitution so early in the game usually means that the decision is forced on you, and the fact that we are now talking about a three week absence for Ramos bears that out. Of course, over the next few days a clearer and more accurate picture will emerge from the medical department as to the realistic amount of time Ramos will be missing from the team.
Shortly afterwards, James Rodriguez joined Ramos in the dug-out; and again you could tell from the body language of everyone involved from James himself to the coaches and medical people that this was something a little more serious than perhaps may have been envisaged a few moments earlier. All credit to the club and Sanitas for not hanging about and addressing the issue by getting the diagnostic process underway without any unnecessary delays. Injuries of this type can take a while to resolve, and as promptly reported by on www.managingmadrid.com last night straight after the game, the recovery period for this type of injury can be quite lengthy. Reports have now confirmed that surgery has taken place and a long recovery period lies ahead.
It didn't stop with Ramos and James, though, as several other players took knocks which could potentially affect their chances of playing this coming weekend. Karim Benzema was also involved in a full-blooded collision with the Sevilla goalkeeper Beto; although on the night it was Beto who came off worse. The goalkeeper was stretchered off in a neck brace as a precaution and spent the night in hospital where it was discovered that he sprained the acromio-clavicular joint of his shoulder in the collision. This is a commonly injured area of the shoulder which normally occurs by landing directly on the shoulder's edge. Although Benzema appeared to suffer bruising to the thigh muscles, he managed to play on and will have been assessed along with everyone else on the Thursday morning in Valdebebas.
The injury list would have been a lengthy one. Sami Khedira was also the victim of a late tackle from behind, Gareth Bale had his calf raked by studs, and Jese - an early substitute - had only been on the pitch a matter of minutes when the Sevilla defence welcomed him to the game. It was a bruising match indeed, and in truth the type of game Madrid could well have done without at this stage. Almost every outfield player took some kind of knock at some point during the ninety minutes. The late challenge on Marcelo typified the events of the evening; although by that stage the Sevilla players didn't look as though they cared whether they were booked or not.
So Real Madrid had to pick up the pieces the next morning and assess who might be available for the Atletico game. Marcelo now misses the match through suspension, and with Pepe still not fully recovered from a rib injury, it will be a different back four from usual. The task for the physios on Thursday morning will have been to separate those who definitely won't be available for the Atletico game from those who might have a chance of playing; and then focussing their attention on the latter. Simple bumps and bruises will respond to some ice treatment and light exercises, while the more involved injuries such as Ramos' will require deeper examination. James' metatarsal fracture will already have been dealt with by that stage, while treatment to Pepe et al will remain ongoing.
The key on Thursday morning will have been to get those who have suffered only minor injuries out and moving instead of allowing the knees and ankles to stiffen up through inactivity. "Active rest" will have been the order of the day, and this just means resting from anything likely to aggravate any injuries from the night before. In these situations the best thing to do is usually to have a bit of a light walk and jog for roughly half an hour or so at a variable pace, interspersed with some easy stretches along the way. Either before or after that a bit of a massage can help to ease any tight muscles. This can also be important from a relaxation aspect. It's better to be active at this stage rather than just resting completely since the stiffness will begin to set into the muscles and then it will be so much harder to get going on the Friday. It's also important to remember that the Thursday morning session essentially bridges the gap between resting and recovering from the Sevilla match and starting the preparations in earnest for the Atletico game.
The backroom staff will have been in early on Thursday morning to thoroughly assess the situation after Sevilla, and it will have been a depleted squad that Carlo Ancelotti will have had to work with. There will have been the injuries from Wednesday night to consider, and although most of these will hopefully have been relatively routine, the possibility exists that some could potentially turn out to be worse than initially expected. However, at this moment the priority is to focus on anyone who could be doubtful for Saturday's match at the Calderon. Viewed in that context, the next 24 hours will be crucial.