Varane: Real Madrid sweating on fitness with PSG tie looming
With just over two weeks to go until their crucial Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain, there is concern at Real Madrid over the fitness of Raphael Varane. The French defender came away from Saturday's LaLiga win at Valencia with a heavy knock to his right knee, sustained in a challenge with Los Che's José Luis Gayá, and was unable to train with the first-team group on Monday. He still felt some pain, and was confined to the gym at the club's Valdebebas training ground.
Since May 2012, when Varane underwent surgery on the medial meniscus in his right knee, each coaching team at Real has sought to treat the 24-year-old with extreme care, in the face of an injury record that warns against fielding him in too many games in a row. Indeed, this term the former Lens man has not appeared in more than three straight matches since October, when he put together a run of five: against Real Sociedad, Real Betis, Alavés, Borussia Dortmund and Espanyol.
Zidane won't take any risks with Varane ahead of PSG tie
This latest setback comes at a bad time for Real Madrid, with their last-16 tie with PSG just 16 days away. Losing Varane for the first leg on 14 February would be a huge blow to head coach Zinedine Zidane, who right now has fellow centre-backs Jesús Vallejo and Sergio Ramos in the sickbay (the latter will make it, but will be lacking in match fitness). What's more, Dani Carvajal's European suspension means that Nacho Fernández will have to fill in at right-back, leaving Zidane unable to call on the versatile youth product in central defence.
Varane, who is a mainstay under Zidane when fit (he is his eighth-most used player in 2017/18 and has started 22 of the 24 matches he has featured in) has missed five games through injury this season. The Real boss will closely monitor his progress over the coming days, and will maintain a no-risk policy with his countryman. Los Blancos face Levante in LaLiga on Saturday and, should there even be the slightest possibility of Varane's knee flaring up against Los Granotas, he will not be included in the squad. Making sure he's in shape to play PSG is the priority.