With a fully-fit squad to choose from this weekend, the Real coach is in an enviable position. Despite the medical team at Real having had a seemingly endless flow of injuries to deal with this season, it’s looking as though they’ve got it right in time for the final.
The last remaining doubts were dispelled at the weekend when Madrid played the final league game of the season at Villarreal; when both Dani Carvajal and Cristiano came through the match without any adverse reactions.
There was one moment in the game when it looked as if Dani could have been in trouble when he landed heavily after an aerial challenge. The Villarreal player involved failed to jump and Dani went over him, clattering to the ground and landing heavily on his arm and wrist.
Situations like this can be dangerous; and if one player doesn’t compete by not getting off the ground then that player effectively becomes an obstacle for the other player to fall over as he jumps.
With Dani at Villarreal, his body’s momentum carried him over the shoulders of a standing opponent and he hit the ground with a thud; his arm and shoulder taking the brunt of the landing.
Luckily nothing came of it on that occasion but it’s not something that referees in general tend to pick up on. In most cases if the referee feels that one player has ‘made a back’ as they say, then a free-kick is awarded but it usually goes no further than that.
In situations like this it’s very easy for a player to land on his back or neck and this is obviously far worse than the incident on Saturday; which to be fair didn’t look intentional. But it only takes a player’s timing to be out by a split second for this to happen, and players can be seriously injured.
On a brighter note Dani will have been pleased with his own sharpness, which looked as good as it could be after his recent spell on the side-lines!
The same could be said for Gareth Bale. He looks to have steadily improved over the past few weeks and Zinedine Zidane himself has had a lot to do with that.
He’s never really put Gareth on the spot either in terms of his fitness levels or recovery from injury; and just like this time last year, Gareth will be bitterly disappointed if he doesn’t start against Liverpool.
The difference though between now and the previous Champions League final is that Gareth hasn’t been fighting the clock in terms of recovery times as he did last year.
Before the Cardiff final he seemed to chasing his fitness for most of the season; and it was one injury after another; while this time around he’s been steadily building his fitness levels up over a longer period of time.
So it’s all beginning to come right for Real Madrid just as the final approaches!
Its common knowledge that the team will train in Valdebebas this week before flying to Kiev on Thursday to complete their preparations in the Ukraine.
Real will certainly find it easier to get there than most supporters of both clubs will. Just like last season in Cardiff, the two competing clubs will be allocated less than half of the tickets available between them.
With the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev reported to hold over 63,000 spectators, Real Madrid and Liverpool have been given just over 16,000 tickets each.
It’s also been widely reported this week that almost 2,000 Madridistas have returned their tickets to the club, citing the cost of flights to the Ukraine which are increasing by the minute and the spiralling costs of accommodation once they get there as the main reasons for non-attendance.
The indications are that there will actually be empty seats at the final; and for two clubs with such a large support that can’t be right.
When the Real Madrid team do arrive at their headquarters, though, they’ll more than likely have a light session to stretch off after the flight, before getting down to the final bit of training on Friday.
Zidane, though, will probably have made his mind up already about his preferred starting eleven. Although he’s unlikely go through the whole ninety minutes without introducing at least one new face at some stage in the proceedings, this is something that Real’s coach uses to his advantage.
Putting aside enforced changes due to injury for a moment, Zinedine Zidane’s use of substitutes in Real Madrid’s games this season has actually looked to be pre-planned on several occasions; and from that aspect it will be just as interesting to see who is on the bench as much as who actually starts.