Although Sergio Ramos (hamstring), and Raphäel Varane (abductor muscle) re-joined Real Madrid’s squad for yesterday’s training, injuries continue to dominate the conversation.
It’s been one injury after another this season, with the latest being to Eden Hazard who dropped out of training this morning (Friday). Consequently, he is unlikely to be involved in the final game of the season against Villarreal.
Dani Carvajal (hamstring), Ferland Mendy (tibial periostitis), Lucas Vázquez (posterior cruciate ligament) and Toni Kroos (COVID positive) all remain unavailable, leaving Zinedine Zidane with limited options.
Sergio Ramos has only partially trained so far, therefore it remains to be seen how far away he is from full fitness. He is a big game player though and Zidane will be taking that into account for tomorrow.
Whether the rumours about this being Zidane’s last game in charge of Real Madrid are true or not, this is a game that could signal the end of an era at the Bernabéu.
It certainly looks as though the club will be moving into a transition period involving numerous comings and goings on the playing side irrespective of the result this coming Saturday.
It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Real Madrid this season. From looking as though the title race was all but over earlier in the year, Zidane’s team rallied once again and are still in the title hunt going into the last game of the season.
Barça’s defeat by Celta Vigo last Sunday ruled the Catalans out of the race for the title, leaving Real and current leaders Atlético to fight it out for the Championship this Saturday.
As is customary on the final day of the season, all games will kick off at the same time.
Originally both Real v Villarreal and Valladolid v Atlético were scheduled for Sunday rather than Saturday. Villarreal then asked the league to bring the game forward by 24 hours to allow more preparation time before their Europa League Final against Manchester United in Gdansk next Wednesday.
This was denied fearing that any Saturday matches would clash with the Eurovision Song Contest, which is televised live throughout Europe but after bowing to pressure, the League relented.
Real and Atlético Madrid’s games will now kick-off at 18.00 CET on Saturday instead (17.00 GMT), with either Zinedine Zidane or Diego Simeone taking the spoils long before Eurovision even gets started.
Of the Real players who were unavailable for the win at the New Sam Mamés on Sunday, three of the five were out with muscular injuries, all of which have the potential for recurrence if an attempt is made to return to play before recovery is complete.
Given what happened in the Champions League return at Chelsea, I don’t think Zinedine Zidane will be too keen to take any chances in that respect.
The days leading up to the Villarreal game were crucial in terms of how well everyone responded to treatment, and Zidane will know who is likely to be fit enough to take part in the game.
As we’ve seen in the past, you can usually manage to carry one player who is not at full fitness (at least for part of the game anyway) but anything above that is risky. Carrying two players is difficult enough but carrying three is virtually impossible.
As far as Villarreal are concerned, they’ll be playing for their Europa League places and Unai Emery isn’t going to stand for anyone giving less than 100% on Saturday.
Real aren’t going to have an easy ride despite the obvious distraction. To make matters worse, rivals and current league leaders Atlético only had one player, Thomas Lemar, on their injured list for their penultimate game against Celta Vigo.
But for anyone who has already conceded the title to Cholo subconsciously or otherwise in advance of Saturday’s games it’s worth bearing in mind that Valladolid will be playing to stay in the division.
It’s tempting to think that Ronaldo Nazário might be looking to do Real a favour but it goes a lot deeper than that. When survival is at stake then your loyalties are to your own club and nobody else. Valladolid’s players will be playing for themselves this weekend.