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REAL MADRID

Casemiro card conundrum adds to Solari's Clásico considerations

Casemiro vio su cuarta cartulina de la temporada en Liga y está apercibido. Si viese una quinta ante el Levante, se perdería el Clásico.

JESUS ALVAREZ ORIHUELA

The Brazilian is one caution away from missing the Clásico and his only natural replacement, Marcos Llorente, is injured for Levante.

Santiago Solari faces a selection conundrum when Real Madrid travel to the Ciutat de Valencia to play Levante with the Clásico against Barcelona next up in the league.

Sergio Ramos will be suspended against Levante after being sent off during Real’s 2-1 defeat against Girona last weekend and Nacho, another option in the centre of defence, is also one yellow away from being suspended for Barça.

Jesús Vallejo is fit and available again after spending most of the season on the sidelines with a string of injuries, restricting the 22-year-old to just two appearances in 2018-19, both in games of little consequence: the return leg of the Copa del Rey tie against Melilla and the last group game of the Champions League against CSKA.

Real light at the back for trip to Levante

That leaves Solari with a delicate issue of whether to risk Casemiro, who is no stranger to the referee’s book, against Levante and possibly lose him for the Clásico. Paco López’s side applied one of the final nails to the coffin of Julen Lopetegui’s Real Madrid tenure with a 2-1 victory in the Bernabéu last October and Solari can ill-afford any further dropped points before the visit of Barcelona, who are currently nine points better off than Madrid.

Casemiro’s only natural replacement in the holding role, Marcos Llorente, picked up a muscle injury in the Copa Clásico at Camp Nou and is expected to be out until early March.

The Brazilian has added an eye for goal to his traditional spoiling role in recent weeks with three goals in his last five games, all of them to open the scoring against Sevilla, Atlético and Girona. Solari would prefer to have him on the pitch in the Ciutat de Valencia but may decide to leave him on the bench so that he is cleared for the Liga Clásico on 2 March, with the return leg of the Copa semi-finals at the Bernabéu on 27 February.