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All back and all well

Zinedine Zidane will have breathed a huge sigh of relief as all the international players returned to Madrid without any obvious issues reported.

Spain v Israel - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

With so many players being involved once again in World Cup qualifiers and training games masquerading as friendies, their absence at regular intervals throughout the season has come to be an expected fact of life for the Real Madrid coach.

To be able to welcome everyone back without any obvious injury problems reported will have rounded off a worthwhile week for Zidane; who spent much of the time in training at Valdebebas working with those who didn't travel.

By contrast, Real's opponents in the Champions League Bayern Munich, are still reeling from the news that their goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has sustained a foot injury that subsequently required surgery.

Although ruled out of the first leg of the tie, Manuel is also looking potentially unlikely (at this moment anyway) to be available for the return game in Madrid depending on the nature of the operation and the severity of the injury.

Real were in a similar situation this time last year with Keylor Navas delaying surgery until the end of the season in order to take the field for the run-in to the Champions League final and the end to the domestic campaign. No such luck for Neuer and Bayern though, and the German custodian is anticipated to be out of action for several weeks.

Having sustained the injury in training, Neuer has a lot of work to do to regain his fitness; and as we remember from when Keylor Navas had Achilles surgery last summer, time quickly runs out before the next match when you're not playing.

Without any any concerns for the coming weekend and the visit of Alavés, this must be one of the few times that Zidane has had everyone fit at this stage of the season. By that I mean without anyone carrying any noticible niggles which we know can easily turn into bigger issues as time goes on.

It has been reported that with the exception of Casemiro through suspension, Zidane has a full squad to choose from for the game against the Basque team this coming Sunday.

The missing defenders are back in training, Raphaël Varane is reported to be fit and well, Pepe played for Portugal against Hungary and was on the bench against Sweden; while the main group of Real players who turned out for Spain in the two matches against Israel and France all appear to have come through unscathed.

The only doubt at the moment appears to be over Fábio Coentrão; who hasn't seemed to figure too much in Zidane's plans this season. Fábio’s appearances have been limited to a handful of games to date; which the media have attributed to a succession of injuries, although this has been denied by the player himself.

Through a recent interview given in the Portuguese media, which has been well reported in other areas, Fábio Coentrão insists that his fitness is not in question, that all injury problems have fully resolved, and only Zidane himself can answer the question over Fábio's lack of appearances to date.

Dare I say it but with the injury situation looking more positive at the moment than it has been for a while (!) Fábio may find that not much has changed and he might well just have to be patient for a little longer.

In reality, Fábio Coentrão’s injury record is no better or worse than the average player is likely to sustain over the course of a season, but when one injury follows another it can be made to look a lot worse.

The current situation for Fábio, and the same applies to Danilo on the opposite flank, is that they only have Dani Carvajal and Marcelo to displace in the first team; so no pressure there then.

It's a situation that is unlikely to change. Barring injuries and suspensions, another of Zidane's options for defensive cover on the flanks is the versatile Nacho who has played so well in recent times.

Nacho himself may now find himself being 'rotated' once again now that the preferred options of Pepe and Varane are available to slot in alongside Sergio Ramos. As always, with the succession of games approaching it will be interesting to see how Zidane addresses his selection once again.

Although on paper, the forthcoming games against Alavés and Leganés may be regarded as easier options to the likes of Atlético and Barça, neither fixture is likely to bring a guaranteed three points or will be easy in reality.

Since an early goal always makes a difference, we'll see how the attack lines up; and if all Karim Benzema's graft during the international week will pay off - if selected!

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