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Defenceless: Ramos' recklessness leaves injury-ravaged Real counting the cost once again

6:28 PM GMT 08/12/2017
Sergio Ramos Real Madrid
The club captain was sent off for a record 19th time in La Liga last weekend and Madrid will be forced to field a patched-up back line against Sevilla

This time last season, Sergio Ramos was hitting the headlines for all the right reasons. Back then, the Real Madrid skipper was netting a number of important late goals for Los Blancos, including a vital last-minute leveller at Camp Nou on December 12. This year, however, things have not gone quite so well.

The 31-year-old has already been sent off twice in 2017-18 and his red card last weekend in the 0-0 draw away to Athletic Club at San Mames was his 24th in total and his 19th for Real in the league, which is already more than any other player in the history of the Primera Division.

And as usual, it was needless. The defender was booked twice for dangerously raising his arm in challenges with Aritz Aduriz and then Raul Garcia. As an experienced player and as the club captain, he really should know better by now.

The previous time Ramos was sent off was in the win away to Deportivo La Coruna in August, when he saw a second yellow in added time with Real already 3-0 up and the final whistle about to go. Again, the dismissal was for dangerous use of his arm and it came after he had earlier escaped what should have been a red.

Many Madrid fans were quick to point out back then that Ramos' red cards have not really affected their team very much. However, the defender's dismissal at Riazor left Real short of options at the back for the home game versus Valencia as both Raphael Varane and Jesus Vallejo were injured. So Casemiro played alongside Nacho at the back and Los Blancos were all at sea in a 2-2 draw.

There are similarities this time around as Madrid face another tough test at home with their skipper suspended for the visit of his former side Sevilla (who can overtake Madrid in La Liga with a win) on Saturday.

Varane is sidelined again after limping off just before half-time in the Champions League clash at home to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, while Vallejo is doubtful after failing to complete training on Friday. On top of that, Dani Carvajal and Casemiro are suspended, so that means more changes and the Brazilian will not be able to fill in as an emergency centre-back on this occasion.

Zidane will be crossing his fingers that Vallejo is fit to start, yet even that constitutes a risk because the defender is still only 20 and has had scant opportunities for the first team so far this season.

If Vallejo is unavailble or deemed unfit to start, Zidane will need to choose between defensive midfielder Marcos Llorente or young centre-back Manu Hernando, who has been training with the first team this week. Against a dangerous Sevilla side, neither option is ideal.

"Jesus will be with us," an optimistic Zidane said of Vallejo on Friday. And he added: "Varane's injury isn't serious and he will travel to the Club World Cup."

That is, of course, good news, but before the trip to Abu Dhabi comes a tricky test against Sevilla and more dropped points in that match could really spell the end of Madrid's already-flagging hopes of retaining La Liga.

It is the kind of fixture where you would really want your captain to lead the team out - and Ramos' recklessness last weekend could end up costing Madrid once again. It is about time he learned to control himself.