Saturday night’s bruising Clásico may have set the scene for Real Madrid’s second leg of the Champions League quarter-final in Liverpool, but it didn’t help with the injury situation.
As we all know now, Lucas Vázquez’s injury turned out to be a tear of the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) of the left knee, sustained in a heavy challenge which is typical of the injury mechanisms for knee injuries of this nature.
There will no doubt be ongoing discussions over the next few days regarding the forward management of Lucas’ injury, since PCL surgery can be complicated and the club will want to ensure the correct pathway is followed.
The reason for mentioning this is that not all PCL injuries go down the surgical route. The tricky nature of the operation often means that many surgeons will go for the physiotherapy and rehabilitation option instead, and although this can turn out to be the correct decision, the choice of which pathway to follow needs careful consideration.
It’s important to get this right at the assessment stage, and although the option to operate is one that can always be taken up at a later date, any delay in going to surgery will invariably affect the outcome in terms of returning to play.
Such is the importance of making the correct decision, it might even be later in the week before that decision is taken.
With the game not being played until Wednesday, Zinedine Zidane will at least have an extra day to assess the injury situation in general. Real’s players went through a rest and recovery session on Sunday morning and trained on Monday behind closed doors with several players still feeling the effects of Saturday’s game.
Fede Valverde was replaced by Marco Asensio after an hour against Barça and was also clearly struggling at time up. Having only returned to full training 48 hours before the first leg against Liverpool he did well to compete for that hour against Barça.
Being replaced by Marco Asensio on Saturday night was a reversal of the roles against Liverpool when Fede made his entry from the bench, and it just shows how incredibly difficult coming back from injury can be.
Being able to ease himself back into playing mode with some game time in the last week will have helped, but Fede will likely be only one of several players Zidane et al will have been assessing in the past 48 hours.
He didn’t take part in Real’s training on Monday morning and will continue to have treatment over the next 24 hours.
Although none of Zidane’s triple substitutions appeared to have been made for injury reasons, it will probably be late in the day before there is some clarity over who is likely to be fit for Anfield and who isn’t.
Taking into account the weather conditions in Madrid on Saturday night, the Barça game was always going to be a test of players’ fitness. Every time there was a stoppage the players could be seen desperately trying to keep warm until play resumed. All this takes its toll on the players and of course, there will be no let-up.
Zidane’s rotation system is currently being tested to its limit and now that Lucas Vázquez has joined Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal on the sidelines it’s just another challenge for Zidane and his staff to address.
As everyone knows, Real are unlikely to be given a warm welcome on Wednesday night as a result of the fall-out from the final in Kyiv three years ago, but it was extremely disappointing to see Jürgen Klopp fan the flames before the first leg with his comments about the Alfredo de Stéfano.
Zidane refused to be drawn and in doing so treated the criticism of the de Stéfano with the contempt he felt it deserved, but others were not so diplomatic.
Real’s former Sporting Director Jorge Valdano didn’t waste any time in taking the bait with his response about the current stadium developments at the Bernabéu and was less than flattering about Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium in response.
Even Barça coach Ronald Koeman admirably came out in support of Real’s current use of the Castilla stadium, a facility many clubs in La Liga (and elsewhere) would be glad to be able to avail themselves of.
The fact that Koeman felt strongly enough about Klopp’s comment to respond as he did speaks volumes about the standard of Real’s facilities. It seems to be just another example of the post-Kyiv reaction that has been simmering since the draw was made.
Injuries apart, Real need to rise above all of this and focus on getting a result at Anfield.