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Real Madrid vs Bayern, 2018 Champions League: Last thoughts a day ahead of the game

The Champions League semi-final second leg is getting closer by the minute...

Real Madrid CF v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Second Leg Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

There’s only been one game in the minds of most Madridistas since last Wednesday; and that’s the second leg of the Champions League against Bayern Munich.

There’s no disrespect to Leganés there whatsoever; but since Madrid’s triumph over Juventus the semi-finals have been the games that really mattered.

But although Zinedine Zidane likes to shuffle the side around, it’s not only been Leganés who have faced a ‘rotated’ Madrid. Since beating the Italians, Real have played Athletic Bilbao and Málaga with one eye on the Champions League - at least from the stands anyway.

I’m not sure that Zinedine Zidane would have been too happy with any talk about Bayern at half-time on Saturday; and rightly so.

Asier Garitano has managed to keep his Leganés side in Primera for yet another season and he’s done that has been by making sure that teams can’t take it easy against them even when playing at the big grounds like the Santiago Bernabéu.

And even though the nucleus of Real’s team will change on Tuesday night, most of those who played on Saturday will still be in the squad; if not in the starting eleven then at least on the bench.

Injury-wise, the whole world knows that Zidane is waiting for news of the three players who have been injured of late.

In reality, though, the wait is only going to be for two of them. Dani Carvajal is highly unlikely to recover from a hamstring injury in such a short time and that’s not going to be a surprise to anyone.

At this stage in the proceedings Zidane is going to play the odds and the chances of Dani having only suffered a very minor tweak of the muscle will be incredibly slim.

Isco’s acromio-clavicular (ACJ) joint sprain sustained in the first leg against Bayern has since allowed him to train. But again Zidane will be weighing up the chances of whether the injury is serious enough to make it too big a risk by playing him against the Germans.

Two years ago Sergio Ramos carried a similar injury for several weeks and for a large majority of the games he played during that period, pain-killing injections were regularly administered before the matches.

But the worry was always there - particularly in the first few games - that if he fell awkwardly and landed on his shoulder again then he could be back to square one.

On a positive note though, is the fact that Isco managed to play on for some time in the first leg before he finally had to succumb to the pain and come off at half-time.

That’s by no means encouraging him to try to do so again on Tuesday night (!) but we all know what players are like when they’re out injured and desperate to play.

The same could be said of Nacho. But since you can’t give pain-killing injections into a hamstring muscle then that’s a non-starter right away!

In any case, Zidane has stated that he’s uncertain about Nacho as a starter on Tuesday because up until Sunday he hadn’t taken part in a full training session as such.

If he’s back in full training proper, then Nacho’s not going to be too far away in terms of recovery time. The problem is that in returning to play after injury there’s always the uncontrolled aspect of the game to consider.

Most players know exactly what you can and can’t do with injuries in terms of how far to push things, and in Nacho’s case Zidane will know from watching him train whether he looks to have recovered enough or not.

Although players are able to participate in practice sessions and to a certain extent guard their injuries by being selective over what runs to make, what tackles to go for, and when to sprint etc., in match situations they have no such luxuries.

You don’t have to be a medic to see the obvious if players are being over-cautious but it’s the subtle thing that alert the management if something’s not right.

Zidane and the coaches will be looking out for players protecting their injuries during those first few sessions back with the full squad; and this isn’t done in such a way as to try to catch them out. It’s simply to satisfy themselves that if Bayern make a sudden break after a corner for example, then everybody on the field will be able to react to the situation.

Additionally, with the injuries being so high-profile nowadays, the visitors are going to want to test anyone whose fitness might be in doubt. So if either or both play, then Bayern will want to see for themselves how fit they are; and they’ll be looking to do this at the first opportunity.

It would be easy to sit back and say that Zinedine Zidane won’t take any chances with either Isco or Nacho; but as we all know, it’s the unpredictable nature of the game that makes football so special!

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