As Zinedine Zidane said after the match, a short recovery period is now being followed by “a good five days of training” with the objective of qualifying for the Champions League final in mind.
The league season is all but over; and barring some obvious fixtures which remain a priority (!) in terms of results it’s now the Champions League that counts as everyone knows.
With no obvious injuries reported from Wednesday’s game at the Bernabéu, Zidane will be able to prepare properly for the Bayern match without the added worry of whether anyone is going to pick up any sprains or sprains this weekend.
Real, of course, have unexpected free time to prepare for the Bayern game thanks to Sevilla contesting the Copa del Rey final against Barça.
As an aside, I wonder what the position would have been regarding the Copa del Rey final if Real Madrid hadn’t been the only Spanish club involved in the Champions League semis a few days later? Mmmmm.
But back to Valdebebas; and by all accounts the recovery session on Thursday after the Athletic game and the subsequent return to training proper has seen most of the players participate at one level or another.
Even more of a boost to Zidane was that Real Madrid’s reliable defender Nacho Fernández appears to be on track for the all-important run-in to the season. Although he’s still not training with the full squad, Nacho is reported to be slowly progressing and his return to full fitness isn’t thought to be too far away.
Nacho is now in that period they call ‘light training’; still doing a fair amount of running on his own, mind; but it seems that everything is still going according to plan.
The Madridista, who sustained a hamstring injury against Paco Jémez’s Las Palmas, has missed several important matches as a result of that injury; including both legs of the Champions League clash against Juventus, the Málaga game and the Madrid derby with Atlético.
Nacho’s absence, along with that of skipper Sergio Ramos, was obvious in the second leg of the Champions League in particular.
Jesús Vallejo got the vote from Zinedine Zidane on the night and partnered Rafaël Varane in defence. But Nacho’s presence will be welcomed by those around him when he returns to the full squad.
As one of Real’s home-grown players, local fans in particular are keen to see Nacho succeed.
He’s one of those players who just seems to get on with things; rarely injured, and thoroughly professional. You never seem to hear anything controversial about him either; and to say he’s a diabetic, Nacho doesn’t make much of a fuss about his condition.
Apart from stating the obvious that he needs to look after his fitness a lot more than other players, that’s usually as far as it goes.
And being Type 1 insulin-dependent as opposed to Type 2 which is essentially controlled through diet and exercise, Nacho’s medical needs mean that he has to be treated in a different way to most of the other players.
Managing his workload correctly can be a balancing act for the medical and fitness people at Real Madrid.
But through having been diagnosed as Type 1 diabetic when he was only twelve years old, Nacho has been able to put into practise everything he’s learned about dealing with diabetes over the years.
Where Nacho comes into his own though is by not making a big deal of this; but it’s good that he does publicly acknowledge being diabetic, and not least as an inspiration to others in similar situations.
As stated in a previous article last season though, being diabetic isn’t going to win Nacho any favours with Zinedine Zidane simply as a result of having the condition. When he’s in the team he’s there on merit; and that’s how Nacho would want things to be.
The next few days will be interesting. Based on Zidane’s approach to date with the injured players Nacho’s return is unlikely to be rushed.
When it does come, however, he’ll be looking to make sure that he is as near to 100% fully fit as possible; since it’s usually the way that when you get one player back into training somebody else drops out!
As the days count down to the first leg in Munich, everybody will be focussing more and more each day on the importance of the match ahead. In one case it’s ‘just another game’ for Real Madrid; based on the frequency of these ‘big matches’ that usually come around at least every few weeks.
On the other hand, though, the importance of turning in a good performance in the first leg can’t be over-emphasised. Just look at what happened against Juventus. Zinedine Zidane won’t be wanting many more nights like the one best remembered for Cristiano’s penalty.
But it was the solid performance in the first leg that saw Real Madrid through in the end. And that’s the part that needs to be repeated.