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No Pepe, no Varane - Real Madrid’s April run-in suddenly looks scary

08:00 BST 09/04/2017
Pepe Real Madrid Atletico Madrid La Liga
Zinedine Zidane's side are now down to the bare bones in defence and cannot afford any more injuries with Bayern Munich and Barcelona in wait


Bad timing for Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane. Just when it looked like Los Blancos would reach the business end of the season without any players on the treatment table, both Raphael Varane and Pepe have picked up injuries to leave the European champions desperately short in defence.

Pepe fractures ribs in derby draw

Varane returned from a spell on the sidelines to start against Alaves last weekend, but the France centre-back lasted just 10 minutes before limping off again and now seems set to miss at least a month of action. And on Saturday, Pepe fractured two ribs after earlier scoring a header in the derby draw against Atletico at the Santiago Bernabeu.

That means Sergio Ramos and Nacho are now the only two centre-backs available for Zidane in a difficult month of fixtures which continues with a trip to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday night.

After that, Madrid travel to Sporting Gijon in La Liga next Saturday in another must-win match as Los Blancos seek to claim their first Primera Division title since 2011-12, before the return against Bayern at the Bernabeu the following Tuesday.

Z idane unsure over Madrid future

Then comes the Clasico clash at home to Barcelona on Sunday, April 23 that could go a long way to deciding the outcome of La Liga, before games against Deportivo La Coruna and Valencia at the end of the month.

More fixtures follow in La Liga in May, while there is also the prospect of Champions League semi-finals and the final if Madrid can keep advancing in the competition they won last season.

With Varane out for a month and Pepe set to be sidelined for even longer than that, Zidane will be crossing his fingers that Madrid can steer clear of further injuries in defence over the coming weeks.

Isco: Madrid can win Liga & Champions League

He will also be unable to rotate in defence for those games, unless he opts for a change of formation and Madrid do not really have the players to switch to three at the back with only two central defenders available.

"Physically we are in good shape," Zidane said after the derby. And he had better hope that continues - because another injury in defence would leave his side in serious trouble against the likes of Bayern and Barcelona this month.