'The FIFA virus' is what they call it in Spain: stars go away to play with their national teams and come back injured. Bale, Ramos, Busquets, Iniesta and Rakitic will take no further part with their respective countries to avoid any possibility of picking up an injury that might rule them out of the biggest date in the Spanish calendar: El Clásico on April 2.
Gareth Bale was not called up for Wales by Chris Coleman either, a pact reached by Real Madrid and the Welsh technical team, both camps in agreement that forcing Bale and his problematic calves is not in the interest of either club or country.
Good luck boys against Northern Ireland tonight!! 🐲— Gareth Bale (@GarethBale11) 24 March 2016
Sergio Ramos is the latest to leave his country's camp, he didn't play the second half against Italy because of back knack and on Friday he left the Spanish camp in Udine to return home, which should guarantee the Real Madrid captain's presence at Camp Nou.
Rakitic left the Croatian squad with some light calf trouble, for which the Croatian Federation has relieved him of duty in friendlies against Israel and Hungary.
Busquets didn't even make it to Italy, his fractured finger meant that he left the Spanish camp at Las Rozas to return to Catalonia, but that 'injury' came before he played Villarreal at El Madrigal.
Iniesta didn't play against Villarreal as a precaution and was not on Del Bosque's 25-man squad list. That means that Barça's midfield trio of Busquets, Iniesta and Rakitic should be in fine fettle for the battle of the big two.
It's not just the Clásico that is conditioning the low-key international friendlies and the noted absence of senior players, however, the clubs facing into the business end of the season with the Champions League final on May 28 in the San Siro, little more than two months away. Euro 2016 then begins in France on June 10, a small window for recovery and tournament preparations.
Luis Enrique and Barcelona are still on course to lift 6 trophies this season with 8 matches left in La Liga this season, 24 points left to play for and the Copa del Rey final on May 22 in the Vicente Calderón.
Real Madrid have just the Champions League to cling to, hoping that competition will allow them to avoid drawing a 'blanco' in 2015/16.