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Real Madrid: 20 of 24 players away on international duty

Los Blancos' manager Zinedine Zidane has been left with just four of his first team squad - Kiko Casilla, Theo Hernández, Marcos Llorente and France's forgotten man, Karim Benzema.

Real Madrid: 20 of 24 players away on international duty

Valdebebas training ground has been abandoned. The Real Madrid first team squad, like most elite clubs around Europe, has been decimated with 20 of the 24 players heading off for friendly games with their national teams.

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Zidane will remain in the Spanish capital with the remaining four players - namely Kiko Casilla, Marcos Llorente, Theo Hernandez and France's forgotten man, Karim Benzema - and training is already planned for 17:00 on Wednesday afternoon.

The bulk of the departing group will be involved in the Spain set-up. Six players (Ramos, Nacho, Carvajal, Isco, Asensio and Lucas Vázquez) will hope to play a part in the two games arranged against both the finalists of the last World Cup: Germany and Argentina. Three others Spaniards (Vallejo, Ceballos and Borja Mayoral) will leave with the U-21 to play European qualifying matches against Northern Ireland and Estonia. Other than Gareth Bale, who will play for Wales in the China Cup, and the Croatians Modric and Kovacic, the Madridistas will not have to travel far.

The Welshman, who was contracted to play in Asia with the Chinese Federation paying more than a million euros for him to appear, will travel more than 20,000 kilometres for the occasion. Meanwhile, Modric and Kovacic have friendly matches in the USA, against Peru and Mexico.

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Bale, Modric and Kovacic worry Zidane

It is the situation with these three players that concerns their manager the most. 

Bale will play the final game of the four-team tournament on Monday 26 March, either at 08:35 (if for third/fourth place) or at 12:35 (the final). This means that his return to the Spanish capital is not expected until Wednesday, at the earliest. If Zidane continues his routine of granting players a day off after arrival, the Welshman would only be back training on Friday morning ahead of then travelling again for the Liga match away at Las Palmas.

With the Champions League match against Juventus just a few days after that encounter, and with Bale's four yellow cards in mind ahead of a league derby against Atlético next up, Zidane could well rest him for the island trip.

The situation is very similar for the two Croats. Both play, in theory anyway, in their second game against Mexico on Wednesday (03:30 Spanish time) in Dallas. Again Zidane will consider freeing them from the additional travel involved in getting to Las Palmas. For other big names in the squad, those playing game around Europe, the travel headaches are much milder. Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, will finish up his duty on Monday 26th and will have covered less than 3,500 kilometres.

Los Blancos' Champions League focus

Not having his full complement of players until the eve of the game, the day they will fly to Gran Canaria, could see Zidane pull together a less-than familiar matchday squad. He, like everyone else, knows that LaLiga is now the practice ground for the games that will define this season: those in the Champions League.


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